I am a creative type and a seeker, always evolving, always looking for the next best thing. It’s the reason I could never stick to a diet, and trendy workouts came and went quickly. Yoga, however, is a totally different story.
Yoga works for me because it is an extremely versatile practice, that can be applied in numerous ways that support my health goals. The possibilities within the practice are endless, and the experience can be different every time. I love this.
I also love yoga because it helps me control my weight, tone my body, and quiet my mind. I don’t need props, gimmicks, or diet clinics to stay in shape. It is wildly empowering to know that all I need to be healthy, strong, and content is already within me.
I didn’t come to this realization overnight…it took a while to embrace the possibilities of yoga. When I first started taking classes, it seemed like every practice was the same. But once I got past my initial resistance, I started noticing that yoga was subtly shaping my body, and my life. I became curious, and hopeful, about what might come next. And what came next was surprisingly awesome in every way.
I still feel that way, fifteen years later. There is always something more to learn and achieve on my mat, and that makes me hopeful and profoundly happy.
The reason yoga is so adaptable, is that it meant to be learned experientially, in a very personal way. The original yogis did not attend large classes…they taught themselves, or studied with a mentor. It’s pretty much the opposite of how yoga is taught today, which is why it takes longer for new yogis to see the value of the practice.
The best way to understand how to apply yoga to your life, is to experiment with a variety of approaches to the practice. Only then can you own your yoga, and use it to reach your goals. Here’s a quick and easy way to understand how you might vary your practice to optimize the benefits:
Sun Salutation B
Flow through the above sequence once or twice, to get a feel for the asanas (poses).
Next, practice Sun Salutation B three different ways:
1) Make it a moving meditation. Align your breath with your movements. Inhale as you move into asanas with up arrows, and exhale as you move into asanas with down arrows. When you are done, close your eyes, stand with your hands joined at your heart for three full breaths, and notice how you feel.
2) Build strength. Practice the sequence again, but instead of moving with each breath, hold each pose for five full breaths. Notice how you feel after round 2.
3) Cultivate awareness. Practice the sequence a third time, but this time make the transitions just as important as the poses. Move with grace from pose to pose, and breath deeply. Make it as beautiful and flowing as you can. Then stop, close your eyes, and notice the energy flow in your body afterward.
Lastly, remember that savasana (corpse pose) is always the final pose of every practice. Make sure to take at least a minute on your mat in savasana, with eyes closed, and a quiet mind, to complete the experience.
My hope is that this experiment will demonstrate that yoga can be anything we want it to be. If we want to cultivate inner peace, yoga has an app for that. If we want to tone our bodies, there’s an app for that, too. And if we want to live our life with greater awareness, well, yoga’s got an app for that, as well.
Most of all, give yourself time to grow into the practice. Commit to at least six months of classes, videos, and/or books, and trust that there is value in the process, no matter what you ultimately decide about yoga’s applicability to your life.