Yoga is…different for every person practicing, and every teacher presenting. Yoga can be an extreme, boot-campy, and energy exhausting session for those that desire an intense workout.
Yoga can be restorative, calming and quieting, centering into person, time, and place with the senses calmed and soothed, for those seeking respite from the storms of life.
We are in a world of abundance with yoga practices and please realize that you can customize your yoga to your needs in a class or home program.
It is humorous that the original writings on yoga outlined the practices in light of achieving enlightenment and union with the Divine, yet in our modern world, we often strive and strain for the physical goals to attain physical beauty, or to look like a pretzel in a unique pose.
“Yoga…is a holistic way of life leading to a state of complete physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being and harmony with nature. This is in contrast to the purely economic and material developmental goal of modern civilization, which has brought social unrest and ecological devastation.” Direct quote Taneja DK, 2014
The safest practices do no harm and improve health measures such as improving strength and flexibility, lengthening the DNA strands (telomeres!), and reducing stress chemicals in the body such as cortisol and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Also, psychological variables improve with yoga, such as improved mental status and reduced worry, rumination, and perceived stress.
Consider how you feel during and after your yoga, and whether you feel competitive with yourself or others (e.g. coveting and striving) and engage in postures that may be violent to your body or if you feel content and have a regular practice for self -care. These items are foundational considerations in yoga; check out the Yamas and Niyamas listed at the end of this blog. The truth is, I strained my Achilles tendons badly in yoga, and they took a year to recover.
Asana (yoga poses) can be done in a few short segments during the day for those desiring adaptable, shorter programs. Asana can be practiced throughout the day. Movement can be stress-reducing, burning off the stress chemicals when we want to fight, flee, or freeze. Practicing the poses can be centering, grounding, energizing, or calming, depending on your movements. Given a longer time window, the poses and can be held longer and grouped inflow sequences as desired.
Pranayama, the attention to and practice of breath control, has great benefits for health! You can notice when you have a stress reaction and hold your breath, and then consider re-booting to diaphragm breathing to soothe your nervous system. You can also use so many types of pranayama to attain different results, such as warming, charging up, or calming and quieting. Techniques can be sprinkled throughout your day.
In this zombie apocalypse of COVID, The Corona Virus, The Pandemic, we have an epidemic of stress. But you can also cultivate your sense of peace, with sensory control and an awareness of your perceptions and mindfulness. And you can cultivate a connection to the divine- Samadhi. There are many forms of meditation and your process may blend with a religious practice in the form of passage meditation where one silently recites scripture or a favorite passage. I use techniques including creative visualization, counting my breath cycle and expanding the inhalation-hold, exhalation, and pause, recitation of scripture(passage meditation), and other mind-body-spirit techniques I will share in future blogs and Vimeos for your benefit.
How to Fit in Yoga – The Scoop!
I am enjoying life more by integrating yoga into my lifestyle, via routines and habits that I have developed during yoga studies in college, workshops, with my PYT (Professional Yoga Therapy Institute) training, and attending mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) classes. Here is a sample from a typical day…which sometimes goes bust and only ends with a side bow and back bow before bed, and nod to gratitude no matter how the day transpired.
Waking up… I start my day with my own style of meditation, with mindful self-compassion, and also seeking wisdom, insight, and compassion in my life at home with family, in the community, and at work. I practice a few Asanas, and Pranayama, ideally facing the sunrise!
When I have a rich morning mind- body -spirit practice, my interactions with the world have more vibrancy, with a sense of a moving meditation throughout the day. My client care can be unique, fun, and engaging. And I am more aware of my body, my breath, and my own emotional reactivity and ability to be flexible, to let things go, rather than carry around a mounting pile of problems throughout the day.
Midday… Asanas are my power up workout mid-day or afternoon, from the mountain and warrior series I II III, to modified triangle, plank, cobra, squat, bridge to single leg bridge, to happy baby, and so on; more to come to help you explore and refine a practice! Do you have a favorite few poses or flows?
Bedtime…can be a great opportunity to move into the calming, relaxing, bending poses, and the use of low light and soothing music creates a wind-down atmosphere. Cat -camel to child’s pose, and meditation in the optimum position of comfort with blankets and yoga blocks for comfort can allow mind -body- spirit centering.
I practice meditation in a longer segment at bedtime vs morning, with an easy seated pose, thunderbolt (kneeling but on a pillow), or in corpse pose, Shavasana. This helps me to float into bed relaxed and calm, having done a “download of the day” and finally a “gratitude wrap up” after the practice.
I have listed some examples of how you can practice 3 ten-minute yoga sessions amid work, self -care, family care, and other time demands. Choose your own combo of Asana, Pranayama, and Meditation. If you are feeling stressed, or even burnt out (where did you go?), or not of optimum strength or flexibility, stepping on the yoga train for health can provide great benefit to you.
Look to this blog for expert tips on building or refining your own practice.
Finally, Here is the big picture on the 8 Limbs of Yoga, to encourage a practice beyond the physical:
1. Yama: Practice of universal morality, including non-violence to self and others, truthfulness, not stealing, restraint, and not coveting.
2. Niyama: Personal observances, including tapas: practices, seeking purity, and self-education and contentment.
3. Asanas: Body postures
4. Pranayama: Breathing exercises, and control of prana
5. Pratyahara: Control of the senses
6. Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana: Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8. Samadhi: Union with the Divine
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Horowitz E, Elgelid S, Yoga Therapy, Theory and Practice, Routledge Press, 2015
Lau C, Yu R, Woo J, Effects of a 12-week hatha yoga intervention on cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility in Hong Kong Chinese adults; A controlled clinical trial, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NY, 2015, 1-12
Miller, B S, Yoga, Discipline of Freedom, The Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali, Bantam Books 1995
Nepo, M, The Book of Awakening, Conari Press, 2011
Schutte N S, Malouff J M, Keng, S-l, Meditation and telomere length; a meta-analysis, Journal of psychology and health, 2020
Taneja DK, Indian Journal of Community Medicine: Official Publication of Indian Association of Preventative and Social Medicine, 2014, 39(2)