Yoga has exploded in popularity over the last few decades. There must be something essential in the practice of Yoga that is filling a gap in today’s world. So what can you expect when you walk into a Yoga class?
What is Yoga? Yoga comes in many forms and styles. Ashtanga, Classical Ashtanga, Anusara, Bikram, Dru, Nidra, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Kundalini, Iyengar, Sivananda and Yin are some of the ever evolving schools of Yoga. In this article I will make reference to Hatha Yoga; the physical postures, with which most people are familiar.
Simply put, Yoga is a series of poses held by our body and synchronized with our breath. Yoga in sanscrit means to yoke or unite and we use the breath to link the mind and the body to work in a way that can create openness and other possibilities. These poses or asanas increase flexibility, strength and improve balance.
We concentrate on extending (e.g. back bend), flexing (e.g. forward bend) twisting and balancing. We are sometimes in a standing, lying (supine or prone) or sitting positions. When you actively coordinate the breath with the movement it energizes, concentrates your focus, releases tension, and invariably quiets our very busy mind. Yoga can be slow and meditative, energetic and aerobic and if practiced to its fullest and complete sense it can be a way of living.
I feel strongly about calling Yoga a “practice.” This word speaks to the need for time, learning and patience in this process. Yoga is not about attaining some goal or achieving the perfect headstand. It’s about taking the time to explore who we are right now. We already have so many demands on ourselves about how we look, what we do, what we have and even the success of our children.
Yoga certainly does not have to be another one of these “shoulds.” Yoga is about curiosity and acceptance. Human beings are often at war with their bodies. They seem to waiver between a state of disconnection from themselves on the one hand and self obsession on the other. We are either oblivious or dissatisfied. Perhaps that is why we engage in activities and thinking that harm us.
In a Yoga class we encourage participants to put aside our thoughts and distractions about the day or tomorrow and come to our mat and pay attention. In Yoga this is called mindfulness. Awareness and consequentially change can only happen if we slow down and look more deeply at ourselves. We start by discovering who we are at this present time.
What do we notice? What do we want or not want to change? There is a wisdom that is available when the mind is still. A way to enhance this attention is by using our breath. This inner rhythm is so accessible, calming and always there. It is our friendly guide.
Just in the act of noticing the breath we have found a place of space. Time slows down as we become more present to the simplest things. How perfect a beginning.
Without doubt, after consistent Yoga practice a positive physiological change occurs. We feel stronger physically and that in turn promotes emotional strength and a growth in confidence. “But still ok with our fragilities,” as Yoga teacher Rodney Yee says. I like that. Come to yoga and see.