Monday, January 11, 2010

2009: The Year of Yoga

Although I took my first yoga class in 2008, my practice was interrupted by Hurricane Ike. I started fresh in January of 2009, so now I've had a full year of yoga. And now I can share some of the ways I believe yoga can help you in everyday life, and to live every day:
  • Flexibility & Strength - Yoga has many aspects, but for me, initially, I started yoga as a gentle way to move into a physical fitness routine. The self-paced, non-competitive nature of yoga allows you to jump in at any level. And as you build your practice, you will experience a continuous improvement in your flexibilty and strength. But this applies more to every day life than any other exercise I've experienced. Better posture, improved movement, greater energy are all physical effects I have experienced because of yoga.
  • For all bodies - Last week, when I had to climb under rafters and over air ducts in my attic, I was thankful for my yoga. Think of all the occupations and situations that require physical flexibility, strength and balance. I understand men have shorter hamstrings, for example, and other differences that limit their physical flexibility. I wonder how many occupational injuries could be avoided if those with physically demanding jobs embraced yoga. And for those who have injuries already, yoga is the gentle way to build strength and flexibility and ultimately lessen the pain of injury. My primary instructor's philosophy is to live a long, pain-free life. Yoga helps to keep him on that path.
  • For all faiths - Yes, the chanting is different, and there is a bent toward "the light within." But yoga does recognize a Creator, and for someone with a well-formed conscience, yoga can enhance the spiritual experience. There even are programs, like Yoga Fit, that have no spiritual component and instead focus on fitness. But As a Catholic Christian, I use yoga to help me strengthen my faith by increasing my awareness of my connection to God and others in addition to improved fitness.
  • For all ages - I admit: My body has changed, especially since turning 40. But in some ways, I feel better than I did at any other age, thanks to yoga. I hope to grow old continuing my practice of yoga. (It sounds much more appealing than Sweatin' to the Oldies or Sit & Be Fit!) And I would recommend yoga to people of all ages. I encourage Joseph (11 years) to do a few stretches in the morning before school. Who doesn't like a good stretch? Yoga is a series of stretches that helps you keep that great feeling for much longer.
  • Awareness - This is the area I need to work on the most. Every time I do yoga, I get more out of it than the time before, because I have taken time to listen to my body, empty my mind, and focus on being aware. But many times while doing yoga, my mind does wander to thoughts, ideas, things to do, even topics to blog about. In our 21st century lives, this is typical. But yoga offers an age-old remedy to help you reach the timeless goal of awareness.
These are just a few broad reasons to try yoga. Everyone will have their own list of benefits, and these are just the ones that come to mind today. But if I were to sum up what yoga does, it would be this: Yoga lifts you up while grounding you at the same time.


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