Yoga Is My Prayer
Yoga is my prayer. It’s natural for me. It flows easily. I’ve done Yoga on and off since I was in my early thirties. However, I’ve become quite serious about it in recent months while recuperating from an illness and now I practice Yoga four to five times a week. I’ve focused my attention on my body and found peace in my Yoga practice.
I will be the first to admit Yoga isn’t for everyone. It’s not an easy practice. Contrary to popular belief Yoga is not just stretching. Yoga ties Asanas (poses) with breath and has a meditative quality. While Yoga is a popular practice for women in the United States, it was originated and practiced by men in India. It’s not just a girl’s sports. Some poses can be quite challenging especially when holding a twist, inversion or one legged balancing pose for several minutes. Yoga is an individual practice and every day is different. Some days I’m looser than others. Some days I can balance in the Dancer pose on the Right leg but not the Left leg and some days I can’t find my balance at all. And, that is ok. Everyday day I practice Yoga I challenge myself to find my personal best. I challenge myself to shut my mind down to everything else and focus for one hour on my breath and body. I let my body find its edge without pushing it too far. While I push my body’s envelope I don’t push myself beyond my capabilities nor do I compete with the class. Yoga is not a competition. It’s an individual practice. People get injured when they push their bodies beyond it capabilities, try to compete with their neighbor in class or get caught up in peer pressure and try poses that are beyond their skill level. I’ve never been one to give into peer pressure and I most certainly won’t do it in Yoga.
In a recent New York Times article “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” William Broad discussed how people sustained serious injuries while doing Yoga. He cited people having strokes and having cervical damage from Yoga. While I don’t disagree that you can sustain injuries while doing Yoga, it is my belief you can sustain injuries while doing any physical activity. Runners are known for chronic injuries to their ankles and knees. I also believe most injuries occur because people do not listen to their body. In Yoga, you can always pull out of a pose when if you feel uncomfortable. Certified instructors advise students of contra-indications for the poses. I would never take a class unless I knew the instructor had certification to teach that form of Yoga.
As for myself, Yoga has been a refuge for me in a storm of change. So much has changed in my life in recent months. I had a serious illness which left me with a weakened immune system and permanent Liver damage. As a result I can no longer drink alcohol. That means no glass of wine with dinner. No cold beer on a hot day after the beach. No Bloody Mary with brunch. If I drink alcohol, I will make the problem worse. So, I will be remaining sober. Yoga gives me the strength to accept the changes presented to me by life and blossom in spite of my health set backs. While Yoga challenges my body, it occupies my mind, slows down my breath and makes me focus on my body and poses without distraction.
Yoga is changing my body with every practice. I’ve seen more definition in my arms and leg muscles than I ever saw in months lifting weights in a gym. I was pretty excited when I saw the contour in my arm and felt my thigh muscle which is now tighter. I am stronger. While I’ve always been double jointed and flexible, I’ve greatly improved my flexibility and now move smoothly which prevents injuries. My blood pressure has lowered with my practice as it slows the body down. My heart rhythm and rate has stabilized. I sleep wonderfully and wake up feeling refreshed. But, there are other benefits to doing Yoga.
I practice at a Yoga Studio. By practicing at studio I am a member of community of people who practice and love Yoga. I learn from them. I am inspired by them. And, I am growing in my practice because I seek their advice. I take classes with women almost seventy years old who are strong, limber and fit. When you practice Yoga, you start taking better care of your body by eating right. Standing next to the seventy year old who is supporting her weight on her elbows with both feet off the floor in Crane Pose is an inspiration to me. That will be me one day. Going to a Yoga class at studio is better than any happy hour at any bar. While I enjoy getting out for a bite to eat now and then, I really don’t enjoy hanging in a bar anymore. I would rather hang out at the studio. While I don’t mind being with people who are drinking, I don’t really enjoy noisy bars anymore. I’ve become accustomed to peace and tranquility. It feels a bit odd completely dropping out of the local social scene. It feels right for my body and my life. I hope to connect with some of the people I miss from the social scene outside of the bar.
As I grow in my Yoga practice, I hope to one day get certified to teach. Today I am grateful for the courage to change. I am thankful for my body which is flexible and strong. I am thankful for my mind which is centered and at peace. I am grateful for my heart which overflows with love for myself as well as others. Today I am thankful for Yoga.
One last note, if you tried Yoga and didn’t like it, remember there a many different types of Yoga. Maybe you haven’t found the one that is right for you. Check out Yoga Journal or stop in a studio near you to find out what classes they offer. Remember Gentle Yoga is more relaxing while Power Yoga and Flow Yoga are more of a cardio workout. I like it somewhere in the middle. Find the style that works for you.
- Yoga Props – Are they for you? (everydaynamaste.com)
- Yoga – At Home and Classes – a Balancing Act (joyofspa.com)
- Is yoga helping my run? (heavymedal.wordpress.com)
- The Anusaga, and Bryan Kest. (elephantjournal.com)
- In the classroom, yoga helps students prep for national tests (theconfluencecountdown.com)