When I tell people that I am a Yoga teacher, I get a wide range
of reactions. Sometimes the person will get really excited and ask
me all kinds of questions. This usually involves them explaining
why in their life they’ve never had time for exercise, but
they know it would be really good for them. Other people just kind
of say “that’s nice” and then change the subject
or leave – watching me with a look of suspicion, trying to
decide if I’m a whack job or not. On the far end of the scale
are the people that just flat out make fun of me by trying to sit
in the “Lotus” with their feet tucked up on the thighs
and then chanting. I’ll admit that like many stereotypes,
the ones about Yoga teachers are also based on some truths. I just
smile over this stuff and keep going. The practice of Yoga has so
positively affected my life that I just don’t care what anyone
else thinks. I told my husband the other night that with Yoga I
feel like I’ve had a rebirth. I have so much more energy.
I’m healthier. I feel better than I did at 20.
All that stuff is great, but the best part for me is the
stillness and peacefulness that the practice of Yoga has brought
to my internal life. I’ve always been a pretty competitive,
type A overachiever. I was good at school, and when I got out of
college I took a big business job. I was always pushing myself,
and my brain was always on overload. There would be so many things
swimming around in there that I just couldn’t settle down
and think straight. If I was still for any period of time I just
couldn’t stand it. Staying busy keeps us from being with ourselves.
Once I started practicing yoga, I started learning how to be alone
and to listen to myself. I discovered that the real me was just
kind of hanging out on the back burner. I knew she was there, I
just didn’t think I had time for her. I thought I needed the
business I was running for the money. I thought I needed the prestige
that came with it. All that I was really getting out of it was depression.
The ancient Chinese described this spinning mind as “a thousand
chattering monkeys in my head.”
often hear my friends talk about how they are overwhelmed with their
lives and responsibilities. Most especially I hear this from my
women friends. They are scattered, running around from task to task,
place to place, never stopping to take a breath. They do this all
day and then collapse in front of the TV at night. The TV, radio,
internet, and telephone are all ways of escaping from being with
ourselves. Although a great TV or radio program can be very enjoyable,
sometimes we’ve got to unplug ourselves from the continuum
and just be, in silence. As women we often take care of everyone
else and never ourselves. What I’ve learned from the practice
of Yoga is that I have to take care of myself first, and then I
can take care of everyone else so much better. When I am spiritually
grounded and physically strong I have the strength to open my heart
to anyone who needs my help. When I am taking care of myself, I
am much better at being completely present with people when they
talk to me. Truly being present with someone when you are with them
is the best gift you can give them. I don’t consider the time
I take to do the yoga or to cook healthy food something I have “fit
in” anymore. Now it comes first. My mindset has changed. Taking
care of my body has now become a priority and a responsibility for
me. My spirit is so huge, I have so much I want to do and learn
and enjoy in this life. I want to go the whole way. When my great
grandchildren are born, I want to be there and lean over and pick
them up. Maybe something will happen in my life that won’t
make this possible, but I think it is a great goal. The choices
I am making now will affect what happens with my body later. This
is just common sense. Everyday is a new day, and every day is an
opportunity to make the best choice.
Yoga has helped connect my mind and body. I am more aware of what
is going on with my body and how my mental state affects how my
body feels. For years I ate a very high fat diet and didn’t
really focus on the truth, that although I enjoyed taking it all
in, I really felt awful for hours afterwards. This deeper awareness
has helped me change my lifestyle and diet, and my weight no longer
goes up and down.
Top 10 Reasons to Practice YOGA– (adapted
Yoga is not “quick fix.” Although many people will
report feeling great after their first yoga class, it takes a consistent
practice over time to truly reduce your stress, and its effects
on your body.
1) Stress Relief – Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress
on the body. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate, improves digestion,
and boosts the immune system. Yoga can also ease symptoms of conditions
such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, asthma, and insomnia.
2) Pain Relief – Yoga can ease pain. Yoga teachers and students
have found that practicing yoga asanas (postures), meditation, or
a combination of the two, reduced pain for people with conditions
such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases and hypertension
as well as arthritis, back and neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome,
fibromyalgia, eczema, IBS, and other chronic conditions. Western
science is beginning to investigate these stories, and studies are
demonstrating that Yoga does indeed ease pain. I think that if a
person’s pain is affected by stress – which many diseases
are – then yoga definitely helps the person manage their condition.
3) Better Breathing – Yoga teaches people to take slower,
deeper breaths. This helps to improve lung function, trigger the
body’s relaxation response and increase the amount of oxygen
available to the body.
4) Flexibility – Yoga helps to improve flexibility and mobility,
increasing range of movement and reducing aches and pains. Many
people can’t touch their toes during their first yoga class.
Practitioners begin to use the correct muscles to make the movement,
and over time, the ligaments, tendons and muscles gradually lengthen
and elasticity is increased. These gradual changes can mean that
more and more poses are possible.
5) Increased Strength – Yoga asanas use every muscle in the
body, helping to increase strength literally from head to toe. And,
while the postures practiced in yoga strengthen the body, they also
provide an additional benefit of helping to relieve muscular tension.
6) Weight Management – Yoga (even less vigorous styles) can
aid weight control efforts by reducing the cortisol levels as well
as by burning excess calories and reducing stress. Yoga also encourages
healthy eating habits and provides a heightened sense of well being
and self esteem.
7) Improved Circulation – yoga helps to improve circulation
and, as a result of various poses, more efficiently moves oxygenated
blood to the body’s cells.
8) Cardiovascular Conditioning – Even gentle yoga practice
can provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate,
increasing endurance and improving oxygen uptake during exercise.
9) Better Body Alignment – Yoga helps to improve body alignment,
resulting in better posture and helping to relieve back, neck, joint
and muscle problems.
10) Focus on the present – Yoga helps us to focus on the
present, to become more aware and to help create mind-body health.
It opens the way to improved coordination, reaction time and memory.
Is Yoga a Religion?
No, it is not. Some people think that with Yoga I am trying to take
them away from Christianity to some other eastern religion. I grew
up Episcopalian, and as an adult have attended the Presbyterian
and United Methodist churches. Yoga, like meditation, can be a spiritual
practice for some people, but it is not a religion. People from
all different religions and cultures practice yoga. Many yoga students
find that the practice enriches their internal spiritual world or