Hi my beautiful ones, and yes I am talking to the inner you, that beautiful light being that resides in your body that shines through.
As a yoga teacher, I wanted to bring up a subject that I hear all to often from people.
“I can’t do yoga, cause I am not flexible enough”, or “I am too old to learn yoga”, and I have even been asked “Will I have to change my religion to do yoga?” Let’s not forget the proverbial “Yoga is for hippies isn’t it?”
I just want to bring some clarity and insight into the “not so mystical” world of yoga from a teacher’s perspective, and draw your attention to the very real benefits of practicing yoga.
Yoga – which can literally be translated as “union” or “yoke” meaning an unbroken, constant connection. This can be a mind-body connection, breath-movement connection, a spiritual connection to the divine, basically whatever it is that you feel you are connected within yourself. To me, this is what yoga is about. That deeper connection, the quieting of the mind, that connection to yourself, within yourself, that so often gets lost in our hurried busy lives.
I teach both regular floor yoga, where we are on our mats performing asanas (poses) and vinyasa (flow or sequence of poses moving one into another). I am also blessed and have the pleasure of teaching chair yoga and special populations yoga to seniors, some of who are in a wheelchair and on oxygen, and I am so awestruck and inspired by them!! I am privileged to say some are in their late 80’s and early 90’s and not one of them says “I am too old to learn yoga, or I am not flexible enough.”, and NO the wheelchair does not stop them either! These beautiful inspiring souls, have taught me much more than I have taught them. I cannot tell you enough how the energy in that room feels when all my seniors come into the room. Blessed is all I can truly say! So, yes absolutely the diversity of my clients, and students is a living testament that ANYONE can do yoga and receive the healing benefits you get from yoga. The only thing stopping you is your own mind.
This leads me to talk about a few of the most important benefits of yoga, and no it is not the asanas or poses we do, although they have a part as well, just not the star of the show like so many people think. (Yes my dear ones, you can stop flipping through your yoga magazines looking longing at the poses you think you will never be able to do).
One of the most important connections of yoga is the breath, or prana to the body, and practicing pranayama (breath work or breathing exercises). Connecting the breath to your movements begins to orchestrate a beautiful flow of balance and energy within the body. With pranayama alone, you can cool down the physical body and mind, or warm up the agni (digestive flow), or balance and feel grounded on a windy scattered day. There are many ways you can use breath techniques alone to create and build or dissipate energy in the body.
You can create a connection by simply sitting still, closing down the eyes gently, and inhale and exhale through the nose while noticing how the body moves with each breath you take. You have now created an awareness of breath to body. Yes that simple. If you want to take it further to quiet the mind, you can add some number counts, such as count to 4 on the inhale, pause for 2, then count to 4 on the exhale pause for 2 (4 part breath). By doing this little pranayama, you have now begun to quiet the mind because you have given it a focus, an awareness of something else to concentrate on. On that note, this leads me to my next little paragraph.
I want to clarify first, just what “meditation” is. If you look up mediation in the dictionary this is what it will say:
contemplation, thought, thinking, musing, pondering, consideration, reflection, deliberation, ruminating, brooding, reverie, prayer….etc….
Wow, ok that is a lot of things, but they are all similar. Now let’s explore a little further. Let’s take a look at what the word “meditate” means in the dictionary:
to think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting or prayers, for religious or spiritual purposes…OR…as a method of relaxation
BOOM! Well we can see where people might get the idea of “religion” being involved. This is a preference, not a prerequisite. In other words, yoga does not require you to be any religion, perform chants, or even pray for that matter. If you choose to do that, you have the sole discretion in that area, it is completely and entirely up to you. What yoga does ask of you, and this also is up to you at your discretion, is to quiet and focus the mind as a method of relaxation. There ya go, no dogma involved.
Meditation can be walking your dog on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. Meditation can be sitting in your living room with your eyes gently closed, listening to a favorite melody. Meditation can be sitting in a quiet state, and just being thankful for all the blessings you have in your life. Are you starting to get the idea that meditation can be what you want it to be? Good, because meditation can be anything that quiets the mind, relaxes you, and allows you to turn your focus inward to yourself, creating a state of peacefulness, and calmness, and in turn begins to heal and restore your state of mind, which then in turn begins to heal the body. It is very true when they say the body follows what the mind does.
In all my classes I place an emphasis on the importance of meditation, even if it is a short, sweet little 5 minute meditation. It forms the gentle pathway for the mind and body connection to begin to flow. When you add pranayama as well to this, you now have the mind, body, breath connection or awareness.
With every class I feel it is very important to take at least 3 to 5 min (even in my shortest classes) at the start of class, to sit quietly, reflect on what your intention is for your practice, or simply ask yourself “What do I want or need from this practice today?” and your answer can be your intention. I will also begin with some breath work while we set our intentions.
Depending on the time of year, the time of day, the energy I am feeling from the class, all of that factors into what type of pranayama we may need, but a good safe rule of thumb, is a balanced 4 part breath as I mentioned above, to begin with. This equalizes the 4 components of breath; inhalation, internal retention, exhalation, external retention. The benefits of performing the 4 part breath, is you bring an awareness to the prana flow, and it begins to calm the body and mind.
I also think it is equally important to end all of my classes with a meditation. If this was an active floor yoga class, we will lie in savasana while we have our end of class meditation. If it is one of my chair yoga classes, we will sit back comfortably in our chairs slightly bowing the chin to chest and gently closing down the eyes if comfortable. How long the asana/vinyasa (pose/flow) class is will determine how long the mediation will be at the end of class, but I will never have less than 7 min even in a short class. I also do strictly meditation classes, with just a little bit of release and relax poses added just before our mediation begins.
I hope after reading this, you have a little different perspective on the benefits of yoga, and who can really do yoga, and I hope your answer is like mine…..ANYONE is capable of doing yoga!
Have a great rest of your day and remember,
“You must first journey inward to manifest outward” – Penni Aubrey