Monday, February 27, 2012

Why I Love Yoga

I have come to the point in my life where exercise is no longer an option, it is a requirement. I can't just associate exercise with weight loss anymore, which was one of the bigger mistakes of my youth. I only exercised regularly when I was dieting or attempting to "get in shape" for something special. Now regular movement and activity is essential for all kinds of reasons in my aging body, but the main reason is that I want to avoid knee surgery. 

I live in a town where there are a lot of "seniors," and many of them have gone through knee-replacement surgery. Some just breeze right through, while others suffer months of rehab and never quite get back to where they where before the surgery except that they don't have the constant pain. I want to avoid all that and try to keep my muscles strong and my body flexible, which is a challenge when, deep down, you hate exercise like I do. That is why it is so astonishing to me that I love yoga.

I've been attending yoga classes at a local studio for about three years now, which makes me qualified, in my own mind, to tell you what yoga is all about. And the answer is: I don't have a clue. All I know is that it makes me feel really good. 

I do know that yoga is an ancient practice developed in India and there are those who get completely wrapped up (aka lost) in the details. There are Sanskrit names for all the poses which are named after the things in nature that they resemble, such as cat, cow, tree, etc.  A good teacher will instruct you in the correct way to position yourself in each pose so that you are doing no harm to your body, but building core strength, flexibility and balance. You also practice slowing the mind down and breathing deeply so that your body can absorb the full effects of your time in the studio. 

That said, as with anything that attempts to link the wellness of your mind and body together, there are followers who go off into the deep end of the spiritual aspects. I don't get into the spiritual side of yoga at all, apart from the relaxation and slowing down of my mind, trying to concentrate on what's going on in the moment and not what I'm missing out on outside the studio. In that vein, I have classified three levels of yoga practitioners and put myself solidly in the first camp. 


Group 1: I'm just here for Savasana. Savasana is the "corpse pose" that you lie in for several minutes at the end of the yoga session. It is comfortable and quiet and the goal is for you to think about how good you feel right now, so that, as you leave the studio and get stressed in your daily life, you can take a moment to relive how wonderful it was to lie there like a corpse. This group of people comes to yoga because we need the exercise and we love the way yoga makes us feel - stronger and in control of our bodies. It's hard to get us to meditate, but we'll try for five or ten minutes, maybe. Don't even suggest chanting or anything else too woo-woo.

Group 2: Suckin' on the Pixie Sticks. Do you remember the straws filled with Kool-Aid we had when we were kids? Where I lived those were called Pixie Sticks. So in my yoga analogy, it's not quite "Drinkin' the Kool-Aid" (group 3,) but it's on the way. This group likes to chant, reads Yoga Journal, keeps up with everything going on in the "yoga world," knows the names of all the different types of yoga and dreams of having their own studio someday. They attend workshops and retreats and come home feeling good, fairly buzzing with goodness. I will admit that I have put my toe in the waters of this group a time or two, and it doesn't feel too bad. I kind of like the cherry Pixie Sticks, but I'm really more comfortable in Savasana.

Group 3: Drinkin' the Kool-Aid. These folks have wholly embraced both the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. Chanting and meditation are second nature to them. They are probably certified instructors and use only the Sanskrit names for poses. They have studied the writings of all the great yoga gurus throughout history and dream of going to India. They are probably the happiest, healthiest, kindest and most accepting people you'll ever know. 

And THAT is why I love yoga. No matter what your physical shape or condition is, there is something in yoga for you. No matter what level you want to practice, no one makes fun of you or tries to make you feel guilty for not loving the Kool-Aid, at least not here in the Heart of Texas. Things might be different and more competitive in the big cities, but I gave that up years ago anyway. Yoga makes me feel graceful and in control of my body. I can do things today that I probably could not have done in my twenties. And best of all, I can go through a whole class and never break a sweat. (You know how I hate to sweat.) No one could ever say that about Jazzercise!

So if you've been thinking about trying yoga for a while, don't let the strangeness of it stop you. Based on my experiences, I feel sure you can fit right in. If you live near Wimberley, TX, stop by the Heart of Texas studio and talk to Becky or check the studio's website. You'll be glad you did.

Thanks for stopping by today; it feels good to be writing again.

1 comment:

  1. I can just see you all stretched out and relaxed, you limber ol' thang! (Just kidding about the "ol'" part of that, says older and stiffer me.) Great post.