Many years ago, when I was a financially strapped, single mother I purchased a yoga video hoping to bring some “zen” into my life. It was a form of fitness I hadn’t tried and I wanted to see what benefits there really were. I didn’t know much about yoga then, and I must say I did find it a challenge trying to learn while watching a video on a 27 inch TV, in downward dog.
Since then, I’ve joined a gym, and had the opportunity to take many different yoga classes over the last five years. Downward dog, Vinyasa and Savasana may sound like veterinary problems, but are now part of my regular vocabulary. I can go through a class with nary a glance at the instructor as I know exactly what she is asking us to do.
Despite being familiar with the terms and movements, I am by no means an expert. I still struggle with certain poses, in my tree pose I look like a tree during a wind storm. Balance is definitely not my strong suit, but what I lack in ability I make up for in enthusiasm. I see continued progress as I become stronger and more flexible with regular practice and even my balance is improving.
There are many different styles of yoga, but three main techniques are used: breathing, postures and meditation. Yoga is an opportunity to leave behind the worldly cares and stress we each have and to focus on the here and now(being present) instead of where we need to be in an hour. We are encouraged to do this by focusing on our breath, which some would say may be the most important aspect of yoga.
By bringing our awareness to our breath, our minds become more relaxed and we can focus on our postures and the moment we are in. The postures and breathing techniques can also help us with meditation. All these working together help to focus our bodies and minds on the energy within and around us.
One of my favourite parts of the yoga class is the savasana at the end. It is essentially like playing dead, you are laying down, completely relaxed and just focusing on the breath. In fact, it is so relaxing I have caught myself on the verge of starting to snore as I’m about to fall asleep. This pose allows your body and nervous system to relax and rejuvenate before heading back into the regular world.
Some of the benefits of yoga include improved mood, improved ability to fight the effects of stress, increased stability, improved lung capacity and improvement in insomnia. There are many other benefits, these are just to name a few and encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t already. As form is so important I encourage you to join a class with a qualified instructor.
So in the end my verdict is to yoga. Namaste.