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Monday, August 8, 2011

Power Yoga and the POWER of Yoga....

You may or may not know that yoga is one of my passions.  I started practicing, and I use that term loosely here, about 19 years ago when I was first introduced to the Hatha style in a holistic health class at Orange Coast College.

Over the years, I'd taken a few classes here and there but the intensity I needed in my workouts just seemed to be lacking in the relaxed paced atmosphere of the classes I'd attended. 

Every now and again I would drop in on a class or do some poses at home but it wasn't until about five years ago that I really started to incorporate yoga practice and its teachings into my life.

Fast forward to now and I can't go a few days without at least one class but I am at my best when I practice three or for times in a week, a healthy addiction I suppose.

Yoga, by definition, means the union of the mind, soul and body.  Teachers of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian art of medicine and life, suggest that one should be immersed in the daily rituals of Ayurveda before even beginning a yoga practice.  But let's face it, we are Westerners with limited knowledge about yoga, let alone the intricate nature of Ayurveda. 

Ideally, incorporating the two into our lives will help to sustain a long and healthy journey into old age, at least we hope. 

There is an abundance of texts and information available on the topics of Ayurveda and yoga and two of my favorites are "Perfect Health," by Deepak Chopra and "Light on Yoga," by B.K.S. Iyengar.  These books offer a wealth of information but "Perfect Health" is a great introduction to both that is easy to read, follow and understand.

I could go on and on about these subjects but my own knowledge amounts to about the same as a grain of sand on the beach...I have so much more to learn and study but that is the beauty of it.  I am in no hurry and I am content to be exactly where I am at, present in this moment.

Let me tell you, it wasn't always this way.  Yoga has taught me to be mindful, patient and more compassionate for others.  It has allowed me to free myself of the inner demons that have haunted me.  Yoga, coupled with cognitive therapy, helped to guide me to the place I am today.  I am more centered and focused about my future and at the same time, I am able to recognize that this very moment is truly the only thing we have for sure.

During one of the most difficult times in my life about two years ago when my father and best friend passed away nearly simultaneously, yoga helped me channel my feelings through my body and allowed me to connect with my core.  I was able to purge the stress and anxiety I was experiencing through the mindful meditation of my yoga practice and I was able to let go of the anger and sadness that would, at times, consume my soul.

Today, while in class and deeply emerged into "sleeping pigeon" pose, I was once again reminded of the power yoga had over me.  Sara Mclachlan's song "I Will Remember You" began to play through the speakers, echoing through the room.  I started to think of my Dad and as I lay there, tears streaming down my cheeks silently, I thought about how much I love and miss him. 

My body and breath allowed me the awareness to release the physical tension I felt in my muscles and although at that moment I experienced profound sadness, I gained a sense of relief and comfort as I lingered in the pose (asana) a few minutes longer. I connected to the memories I have of him and our life as father and daughter and felt gratitude for the time we did have together. 

These experiences are deeply personal but I feel compelled to share them because it is through sharing our feelings that we can begin or continue to heal.  The energy I feel at the studio or gym is both exhilarating and positive at once.  When people can join together in close quarters, moving in unison and using our pranayama (breath=life), we begin to co-exist peacefully with love in our open hearts.  That is the power of yoga.

So I can say this much to you, your yoga practice is your own and it can start with something as simple as the breath.  Connecting your mind to your body and becoming aware of the consciousness that lies in your heart can be the beginning of peace within your soul.

There are so many different styles of yoga from Kundalini (creating a deeper awareness within your practice) to Vinyasa (flow) to Restorative, yoga is available to all who seek it.  And for those who challenge the notion that yoga is not an intense workout, check out Jennifer Aniston or Madonna and tell me those ladies are not two of our more fit celebrities.  They both credit yoga as one of the reasons for their ultra-toned bodies.

Yoga gives us permission to accept ourselves exactly as we are.  It allows us the opportunity for growth and change while remaining a constant source of inspiration in our daily lives.  There is no pressure to push, the focus is on acceptance and love of who you are right this very minute.

For those of you who are already practicing, may you continue to deepen your awareness through the love and light in your soul.

And for those of you who aren't, you may not be ready to start your practice just yet but know that when you are, yoga will be there waiting and ready for you.

Until then,

(The teacher within me honors the teacher in you.)

1 comment:

  1. I've been practising yoga for years too! I just wish I had the disapline to start a daily home practise. Perhaps some day things will line up and I will be able to.