Monday is my usual yoga night but I couldn't go this past Monday. Wednesday is my alternate yoga night, but this week I was travelling for Thanksgiving. Now back home, Saturday morning yoga seemed like a good idea. And, if you strip away my bad behavior...which I'll get to in a minute...it was a good idea. Yoga is good for you in so many ways.
Here's how yoga is good for you...
1. No matter what anyone tells you about some minimum number of times you should practice every week, practicing yoga for even one hour each week will help your body be a better body. Yoga is the best thing I do for overall flexibility and balance even going to class only once most weeks. I will never bend like Gumby but it is just short of miraculous how practically graceful and not clumsy I've become...way more so than ten years ago. The classes I take are vinyasa flow--one movement flows into the next--so the body is continuously working. In addition to flexibility and balance, I'm building arm, back and core strength.
2. Yoga takes your mind to a calmer place. I think most exercise takes the mind to a better place but yoga is deliberate about it. Most teachers will remind you near the beginning of class to set an intention for your practice. Something you want or need to let go of, like that big messy day you've had so far. Keeping someone you care about in mind, like your kids...just because you love them so much. Or something you want to be mindful of, like a shout out to the universe to help you be less judgmental, please. The teacher will also remind you to follow your breath, to move and breathe at the same time. Remembering the intention and coordinating movements with breathing focuses and calms the mind. Even when I start class ridiculously distracted, I am in a better mind space by the end.
3. A yoga class is a safe place to see what you can do for yourself. People come to yoga with a quiet mindset. It's an individual practice even if there are twenty others in class. It's you and your mat. It's your time to see what your body can do. I've had more than one teacher say, "remember, yoga is not a competitive activity". I confess that when I'm working on a balancing pose or trying to get one step closer to full pigeon, I will sometimes glance around to see if I'm the only one who can't bend or lift or balance a particular way. Of course I'm never the only one still working on whatever it is and then I remember...yoga is not a competition, yoga is not a competition...
Yoga is not enhanced by a judgmental attitude...
There is a sequence of moves, a flow, that is used in yoga class. I've taken classes from probably twenty teachers in the course of the past ten years who have each talked the class through this sequence using generally the same words. "Sweep your arms up straight over your head, take a slight backbend if you want to, drop/sweep your hands to the floor, bending at the waist for forward fold, half lift/flat back, forward fold, walk or jump your feet back to plank..." and it continues.
The teacher today kept saying "standing forward bend" instead of "forward fold". It was awkward in the spoken sequence of words and at first I had no idea what she was talking about, so the whole flow for me did not flow. I figured it out after a couple of rounds, but too late. I was annoyed. This is a sequence that gets repeated many times in the course of an hour, and every time I heard "standing forward bend", I got more annoyed. Twenty minutes into class I decided I didn't like her.
It's a little over the top to decide you don't like someone because they say "standing forward bend" instead of "forward fold" (no matter how obvious it is that the latter phrase is better and easier and is the phrase that should be used). I had to start talking to myself. I told myself if she was my daughter, I would certainly defend her right to say "standing forward bend". I told myself I really can't not like someone for changing a phrase. I told myself it was not very good yogi behavior to create such stupid judgment and hold on to it for the whole class and then to think about writing a blog post about it. Yet, here it is.
The way I will honor today's class is to take myself back next Saturday. I will set an intention to not embrace judgment, breathe in kindness and breathe out whatever isn't. I'll be a better yogi.
Are you a yogi with a story to tell? Why do you practice? What have you learned?
Hi, I'm Donna. Long time artisan/creative. Full time work in nonprofit world. Mother of two adult sons. Currently, also mother of two cats.
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