"Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are." -Jason Crandell
Yoga: the word itself is Sanskrit and means “to yoke”, or union. The union is of the body and mind (some would say of the body and the soul), which in the Western world are often conceptually separated. Lately, research and popular culture is starting to catch up to the Mind-Body connection that Eastern Medicine had tapped into long ago. Yoga isn’t just stretching or just exercise; it can be an opportunity to link up your thoughts and your body to the present moment by using your breathing and manipulating your awareness! Yoga definitely has a physical exercise piece with poses meant to stretch the body and challenge the body, and it also has a meditative (and if you want it to, spiritual) aspect; by training your brain to stay in the present moment, breath by breath.
If you like concrete lists of why something is good for you, here goes: improves flexibility, increases strength, perfects your posture, prevents cartilage and joint breakdown, protects your spine, betters your bone health, increases blood flow, drains lymphs and boosts immunity, drops your blood pressure, regulates adrenal glands, MAKES YOU HAPPIER, lowers blood sugar, and helps you focus. And those are just to name a few; if you want to read more about these, check out www.yogajournal.com/article/health/count-yoga-38-ways-yoga-keeps-fit/
And yes, some advanced yoga poses look really cool against a nature backdrop. But that’s NOT what yoga is all about. Yoga gives us an opportunity to practice paying attention to our selves, nurture our true selves, and continuously change our selves for the better. For me, it has brought more awareness to how my thoughts can either be destructive or helpful to my self-growth. For example, I have noticed if I’m thinking “I should do better” in a pose, or am too focused on what it’s “supposed” to look like, my body registers those thoughts as tension and of course tenses up. I have found through my practice that it’s best for me to let go, see what happens, and explore the poses with curiosity rather than expectation, and I can often go deeper in the pose when I think that way. Funny how that works off the mat as well; when I don’t fixate on what things are “supposed to be like” and get out of my own way, they often turn out even better than I thought they could.
Working with my thoughts has been my most recent focus during my yoga practice, but yoga has helped me through break ups, HUGE changes, anxiety, stress, and has led me to loving myself and my body. This has been (and continues to be) my journey, and that’s not to say that yoga will be that way for you; the best part is it will serve you in whatever way is needed if you just show up and get in tune with your body and the present moment. With all that being said, if you’re not into self-exploration yet and are looking for cool yoga selfies and a nice yoga butt go ahead and love your #selfie and promote your wellness! It’s YOUR practice so make it yours.
Intro to Yoga: Sun Salutation A
Sun Salutations warm up the body, build strength and flexibility, and can be a great way to start your practice and even to start your day (also doing a couple of these throughout your work day can prevent tight hips and hammies that come with a 9-5 desk job).
Practice 5-10 rounds, moving with your inhales and exhales (see pictures of poses or press play below to follow along with some lovely yogis). For each new breath, you move to the next pose. At the end of your Sun Salutation practice, sit in a comfortable seated position and focus on your breathing for 5-10 breaths, or however long you’d like. Comment below to share what yoga is for you, or if you're new to exploring this practice!
Light and love,