When people learn that yoga helped me get crazy healthy, they usually respond in one of two ways:
A) “Oh, I could never do yoga. I am not flexible at all.”
B) “I love yoga. It changed my life.”
Some might assume that this means that person A is more flexible than person B. Not true. What it actually means, is that one has explored the possibilities of yoga, and the other has not. Person B knows that everyone can do yoga, if they simply move with awareness, intent, and consistent breath. The goal is to unite the mind, body and spirit, so even the most inflexible person can become a yogi.
I have taught yoga for eleven years, and specialize in helping students learn how to create a personal yoga practice. Group classes and private instruction are a great approach to learning the basics. But, if you don’t have time to get to the studio, there are some simple ways to explore yoga at home.
If you want to learn how to practice yoga, I suggest you lunge a little. Lunges connect us with what is happening in the body. They also strengthen and tone the back and legs, release hip muscles, and help to prevent injury in the lower body. A yoga lunge is just like the lunges we did in gym class as a kid, but with better awareness, and a sanskrit name: Ashva Sanchalanasana (Horse Rider’s Pose).
Here’s how the yogis do it:
On hardwood or carpeted floor (or better yet, a yoga mat), separate your feet wide apart, with one foot in front and the other behind. Bend the front knee to a 90 degree angle. Adjust your stance, so the front knee does not come forward of the ankle. Use your hands to support you. Rotate your thighs internally, as if squeezing everything toward the midline of your body. Hold for five breaths, and then do the same thing on the other side. There, you just did yoga.
The cultivation of a personal practice begins here. If you want to “get into yoga”, all you have to do is lunge a little, every day, with breath and awareness. When you are done, keep listening to your body. From the lunge, you might feel the need to twist, with one hand on the ground, and the other reaching up. Or perhaps you will drop to your knee, straighten the front leg, and sit back toward your heel. Whatever you do, surrender to each experience, and let it grow organically.
If you are a person A, who wants to be a person B, lunges are the perfect place to start. Lunge a little this week, and check back here next week, for more insight on creating a personal yoga practice. Before you know it, you might just fall in love with yoga, too.
Photo: Jasper Johal for Yoga Journal