I thought it may be appropriate to dedicate this month’s Yoga piece to Women and how we can introduce Yoga into our lives. Yoga is such a huge field of deep and subtle experience and study, but it may be worth thinking about aspects of yoga that are particularly important to us, Women.
We inhabit our feminine bodies in a sexist culture in a polluted and violent world; we are often exiled from a sense of our own beauty, caught up as we are in the hamster’s wheel of trying to keep pace with the ever-evolving world around us and the demands that it places upon us in addition to those we place on ourselves.
Societal pressures make us inherently strong, of course, but that strength is often a by-product of grappling with stress and tension. In the practice of yoga, there is a chance to find a gentler strength within ourselves, to help us live with grace in the flow of our dynamic lives.
I was never athletic as a child or as a young woman; never adept at dance or games or gymnastics. The thought of ‘competing’ in any field gave me the chills. Yoga, though, put me at ease. My teachers always emphasized the non-competitive aspect of yoga, making it clear that the crux of yoga was to be fully present within yourself; to be your own bench-mark. Just that thought was enough to make me comfortable in my own body and to allow myself to get more supple, lighter and stronger. It put me in my Zen Zone… at complete peace with myself and accepting myself unconditionally. That is not to say that Yoga has made my body a constant or ideal shape or size. However, it has always been with me like my quiet companion, giving me strength, courage and self-acceptance. Yoga has truly enriched my life, no matter how full or empty of grace it felt at the time I retreated to the comfort of its company. That, though, is my experience … I cannot tell how it will be for each of you. For some, the daily practice of asanas and pranayamas touches into spiritual and emotional aspects that they never imagined existed within them; it can be cathartic for some and peace-inducing for others. You may discover in yourself, qualities that you never imagined existed within you; or you may experience change in size or dimensions of your body; or, again, you may experience nothing but a deep sense of peace and well-being. You will never know until you try.
Some people are creatures of habit. They find it useful to practice at the same time daily or on certain days of the week – they like structure and the rhythm of practice enables them to pace their routine. Others like to go with the flow; spontaneity works for them. New students get concerned about how much they can practice or when they should practice or for how long, optimally. They get concerned about how they will stay motivated and keep up with it. Understand that the impulse that got you started in the first place will be the motivating factor that gets you into the rhythm and groove of your yoga practice. It does feel a bit alien when you first get started. You do it self-consciously. You wonder why you cannot bend as deep as the other woman in your class or whether you will ever be as graceful as another. Later on, yoga ‘claims’ you and becomes the most normal and natural thing in the world for you and your body to indulge in. You find that you do not have to motivate yourself any more than you do, to eat or drink, sleep or breathe. Yoga becomes your second nature!
As far as the time you need to devote to yoga, consider the time that you have at your disposal when you first get started. Set small goals. Do it in baby steps. Then build it up. When you are motivated and start to enjoy the practice, it becomes something that you look forward to each day and your practice evolves with you. Anything between a half hour and two hours for a session is fine. Remember that this includes the much-looked-forward-to session of “yoga nidra” at the end of your asana practice. It helps your body assimilate the learning from your session and embed the experience in your cell memory.
The term ‘asana’ means ‘seat’. This means that you have to be in a comfortable position while practicing yoga. When you first try out some of the postures, you wonder if they could ever be ‘positions of ease’! However, in time, they do become pleasant and comfortable. The stretching position does begin to feel like that invigorating wake-up stretch on a beautiful summer’s day.
For a balanced sequence of asanas, it is recommended that you have:
A ‘Centered’ pose such as Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
A Side Stretch, such as the Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
A Forward Bend, such as Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-legged Forward Bend) or Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
A Back Bend, such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) or Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)
An Upside Down Pose, such as Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) or Shirshasana (Head Stand) or their variations (*except during menstrual periods)
Relaxation or Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Never miss Savasana, even if you have to hurry and get back into your “real” life after the Asana Practice! If you have only 15 or 20 minutes to spend on yoga, spend 3-5 minutes on the relaxation process at the end of your session. Remember that dynamic stretching poses give us outward strength, but only Savasana can put us in touch with our inner strength and resources.
Enjoy your Yoga and stay well!
About the Author : I was introduced to yoga as a child, by my mother, who I consider my first Yoga Guru. Always drawn to yoga, spirituality and the holistic sciences, I took my first Reiki certification course 22 years ago and have remained a student of spirituality, holistic and metaphysical sciences, ever since. I consider myself fortunate that I have a life partner who shares my passions; together, we have participated in several workshops on modalities such as Tachyon, Theta Healing, AyurYoga and several other techniques that we enjoy integrating into our healing practices. I consider Yoga and Yoga Therapy an integral part of my life and am devoted to furthering my understanding of this vast treasury of wealth that we have inherited from our ancestors, implementing it in my life and sharing it with others around me. I received my first yoga teacher certification about a decade ago and am currently steeped in yoga study courses with a view to deepen my knowledge and hone my personal practice.
About the Column : I enjoy the informative articles on B'Khush and do look forward to sharing my thoughts and understanding of yoga and the holistic sciences through my column, with other readers and followers.