One of the lessons I love to share with my clients is the many ways in which our bodies are our teachers. And nothing – but nothing! – has proven this to me more than yoga.
So I am eager to celebrate National Yoga Month by sharing some of the benefits I have experienced through yoga…benefits that you can experience, too!
I remember my first yoga lesson, with its slow, flowing, meditative moves, more than 15 years ago….what a culture shock! I must confess – I did not enjoy it. How could this be exercise, I wondered? Ah well – I was younger in those days, in my twenties, and I was drawn to classes that were fast moving, like aerobic classes. Also when I did inversion poses, like Downward Facing Dog, I felt dizzy. All in all, it wasn’t a great experience, and I wasn’t impressed by my exposure to yoga.
Then, about nine years ago, I discovered hot yoga classes and really stated to appreciate the benefits of this powerful mind/body practice. Most of all, yoga has helped this On The Go Woman to relax and get out of my head and into my body.
During a hot yoga class I would think to myself – what on earth am I doing here? What possessed me to do this to myself – and how am I going to get through it? Yet. I always managed to make it through, and in fact emerged from a hot yoga class feeling energized and clear, as if I’d released deep toxins from my system.
Was it the driven competitiveness of a Superwoman that brought me through each class? Perhaps…but in yoga I learned that it is not about being competitive. Instead, it’s about accepting yourself where you are, without comparing yourself to others in the class. What a powerful lesson, not only for the yoga classroom but also for life…and it was only one of many; for example.
- Ability to stand solid in Tree Pose relates to the degree of balance you have in your mind and body that day.
- Resistance to Downward Facing Dog is related to resistance to letting go and enjoying the moment.
- Challenges in doing a Backbend or Bow Pose (which still challenge me) indicates difficulty in letting go of perfection
What does a Backbend have to do with letting go of perfection? According to Yoga teacher-trainer George Watts, a backbend exposes your chest, leaving your heart vulnerable and open. It demands that you reach deep into your courage, giving up fear and reflexive self-protection and shutdown to stretch more deeply into the pose. If you try to stay in control while you move into a backbend, your shoulders tense and your chest closes. You just can’t have it both ways! So backbends are a great way for perfectionists to let go, open our chests, and start breathing in self-acceptance, joy, and fun.
Hip-opening poses like the Bound Angle pose and Cow Face pose are great for activating the sacral chakra, as well as helping you to release stuck emotions. Another hip-opening asana, Pigeon Pose, helps to reduce the noise of your thoughts, allowing you to use your silent mind to renew yourself in gratitude and peace.
There are many types of yoga; these are just a few:
- Hatha Yoga – combines poses with breathing practices. Generally calming and renewing, the best type for beginners.
- Iyengar Yoga – emphasizes alignment and positioning with supports, and can relieve chronic pain.
- Vinyasa Yoga (a.k.a. “power yoga” or “weight loss yoga”) – is fast-paced and flowing
- Bikram Yoga (a.k.a. “hot yoga”) – is practiced in very hot and humid rooms to help practitioners stretch more deeply
- Ashtanga Yoga builds strength and endurance through a consistent and intense series of poses
- Kundalini Yoga focuses on calming the mind, awakening the chakras, and renewing the body through movement, mantras, and breathing.
- Yoga Nidra – (a.k.a. “lucid sleeping”) is a deep state of meditative relaxation in which you remain aware of your physical environment.
- Karma Yoga – (a.k.a. “working yoga”) is the practice of making your work a spiritual offering, releasing its benefits rather than keeping them for yourself. It’s the most spiritual – and mundane! – type of yoga, great for a retreat on the job.
Find the type(s) of yoga that suit you and enjoy their many benefits this month!