Lately social media has been exploding with all sorts of wild expressions of yoga poses. I honestly enjoy them as much as anyone. But…. I also recognize that they are giving a very skewed representation of what Yoga really is. And… I bet that most of the photos you see are truly only a small part of that individuals practice. It takes mad skill to do most of those fabulous poses. It takes dedication, focus, and passion. But that is NOT what Yoga is ALL about!
For the majority of us who have dedicated at least a portion of our lives to this practice, we know that Yoga is about more than just the poses. The thing is… sharing what Yoga really means to us would be near impossible to describe in words and there’s no way to show it in a photo. A well balanced yoga practice goes deep to the core and it’s not easy to relate it to any other experience in life. It’s not showy… it’s not flashy… it’s a deep sense of contentment and a feeling of radiance that shines from the core of your being. Because it’s not something many can easily relate to — it’s not a great marketing tool. Inherent in our nature as human beings is a desire to connect and share our experiences with each other. And so… we find ourselves doing our best to portray the excitement we have for this practice that enriches our lives so much. We want to shout it out from the roof tops — this feels so good — I love it —- and even though it might be challenging to start — you can enjoy it too! But is this exuberance now having the opposite effect. Is it turning off the people who would most benefit from it because it appears so incredibly inaccessible?
For me… Yoga was not a path I decided to venture down. Instead it was a path that revealed itself to me. I felt called to teach simply to share the benefits of this practice. My mission as a teacher is to do my best to serve the people I’m blessed to share my time with. To help keep a more even perspective of the field of Yoga, I’ve decided to dedicate some time and space to showcase the less flashy and more practical side of Yoga. I want to show how accessible and how beneficial Yoga really is for the everyday, ordinary people…. no yoga pants required…. although I’ll probably have them on in most of the photos – I pretty much live in them with all the teaching I’m doing – and they are after all – super comfortable;-)
The thing I want people to know most about Yoga is that there is such a wide variety that there is definitely a type to suit YOUR BODY – your needs – and even your preferences. If you’ve taken a yoga class and didn’t like it – I encourage you to look around a bit more. Of all the types of self-care I’ve experienced through the years, I think Yoga is the best because it addresses personal health and well-being on so many levels all at one time! It’s great for your body, your mind, your relationships, your soul! A good yoga practice – for you – should feel complementary. It should light you up. Whether you choose a gentle, restorative practice or a fiery, flow practice — it should feel good. In your heart you know what’s right for you.
I do believe practicing Yoga is best done with a teacher in a live class. A good yoga teacher will watch your body and actions. They will help you fine tune the postures so that you benefit more fully from the practice. But — if going in to take a yoga class is beyond your reach right now, or for those in between class times, I wanted to share some great everyday yoga poses, practices, and philosophy.
For me, Yoga is first and foremost an opportunity to re-center. It’s a time to quiet down and listen inside. It’s a time to distance myself from the gravitational pull of all the roles, responsibilities, and ties to the exterior physical world I work and play in. I am human – there’s no escape of that just yet… but yoga gives me a little space to reconnect to the energy of my heart, or spirit, soul, or whatever you want to call it. In calming my mind, I see a broader perspective of life with more clarity and possibility. The yoga postures themselves help to balance my body and my nervous system. I find the practice calming, empowering, and fun. I choose a practice that is generally challenging and exploratory, but I make time for purposeful alignment, deep relaxation, and restoration too.
I chose this arms up over head and bend to the side pose (a version of Urdhva Hastasana) as my first offering. Most everyone will benefit from this pose. Here’s how you know if it’s right for you or not – if it hurts – stop – and just do less – until it doesn’t hurt! Raising the arms overhead can raise the blood pressure – so just make note of that if this is an issue for you. This pose can help you breathe easier as it stretches your chest and ribs, it also stretches your back and can help re-align your shoulders. You can do it sitting – you can even do it laying down! Interlace your fingers, flip your palms to the sky, stretch, reach, and breathe. That’s it! One thing that will make the stretch “yogic” is for you to be sensitive to how this pose feels rather than just push your way into it. Based on what you feel, make small adjustments so that you experience a sense of integration and harmony as you stretch and breathe. Until next time… the light in my heart… honors the light in yours… Namaste.
PS – Big thanks to my friend for taking this first photo with me. Even though I put myself in front of the camera, and in the front of the Yoga Studio, I’m really rather shy. I appreciate the companionship and moral support!