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Sep 18 2014
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The benefits of a yoga practice are numerous and touted numerously (often repeatedly). There is flexibility, strength, balance, regulation of the nervous system, relief from stress and anxiety and the list goes on. Yoga helps us with a great many things both physically and mentally (and some even suggest spiritually).

There is evidence that this practice can assist in weight loss too … but I steer clear of suggesting that the physical practice alone can do that. Though, I do know how it can do that very thing for anyone looking to create change in their body.

Unlike almost any other form of fitness yoga offers an opportunity for anyone willing to take the long (lifelong) journey. It can strengthen your body (bones to tissues), reduce emotional wear and tear, and give you the body you want all through the very simple acts of moving your body and paying attention.

WE DON’T KNOW OURSELVES

…at least not as well as we could or should.

We are a like quilts, a patchwork of the people we have known, the events we have lived through, the things we’ve felt, and the various ways we have been conditioned to think and behave. In some cases this has caused us to disconnect from our self … our True Self … and so we’ve adjusted many of our defaults, both physical and mental, in an effort to live up to expectations (theirs rather than ours).

Posture EvolutionWe are supposed to feel good. Our bodies should be strong and flexible, mobile and balanced, energized and rested. But how many people complain of sore backs, bad knees, a stomach too full of a greasy lunch and then drowsiness? Yet we continually alter the factory default settings with our mind/body to ever lower and lower expectations for what GOOD feels like. We often seldom notice the ache in our low back unless our attention is brought to it. So GOOD is slowly moved further and further away from its fullest potential to something more resembling bearable suffering.

This is all because we no longer know ourselves. We don’t understand and, in some cases, even like the person we have to spend every waking moment with: Our Self. We are strangers to that person in the mirror, unaware of all that might make that person named “I” and “Me” feel amazing, smile more, shine brightly.

YOU NEED YOGA

You roll out your mat and you set an intention to move. The instructor guiding the class invites you to engage your Ujjayi (Victorious) breath and connect. Your toes tuck under and you use your abdominals to draw your hips toward the sky. It’s then that you notice your hamstrings are extra tight today, which then causes you to recall something that happened a couple years ago that might be upsetting, might be humorous, but definitely arose out of nowhere. Your mind is now more like a cage filled with monkeys bouncing off of each wall and your body struggles to look like that belonging to the person next to you. But where in all of this is that Zen feeling?
It’s there! The thing yoga can give you is just beneath the chatter of the ego and the relentless pushing to do more and more and more.

warrior2Over time an opportunity will become apparent. As you fine-tune your asana (yoga posture) you come to know your body a better. When asked to lift the arch of your back foot in Warrior I, let’s say, you come to understand what muscle activation is required. This familiarity continues to evolve over the days, weeks, months and years of your practice allowing you to refine, adjust, and grow in your yoga practice.

The invitation to become aware of the present moment through a focus on breath reveals something of how the (mischievous) mind actually works. We become better able to recognize how thoughts simply *POP* into existence and sometimes we even become aware of things that trigger them. Again, over time, you are able to adjust the thoughts you pursue and when best to pursue them through simply recognizing the nature of how our minds work.

With patience — and it does requires plenty — you realize that the point of the practice isn’t the tens of thousands or chauturangas but, instead, the training of the mind and the body to become something … more. You realize that you can get stronger, fitter, balanced and a great many other things by not striving to work so damn hard but by letting go and just being. This leads to a deeper understanding of the Self.

Then the Zen comes.

GET TO THE POINT

You’ve got to know yourself to control yourself.

Look, we all want to feel better, look better, move better, and to be better versions of ourselves. To accomplish this we need to know ourselves a whole lot better than perhaps we currently do. We need to meet ourselves in a neutral place (our yoga mat), without judgement, and simply learn how to recognize what our bodies and minds need, how they feel, how they work, and how to nurture and empower them.

Bow PoseYoga offers this opportunity each time you roll out your mat and take that first deep breath in. As you learn to observe and listen new possibilities arise. You go from sitting, moving, eating and sleeping automatically, without much awareness, to becoming more attuned to how each activity, each meal and even each thought affects you. Then you drop the things that no longer feel good.

A tight and closed-off body lends itself to a tight and closed-off Self. By releasing the tensions of the form we become open and able to release those things that caused us to contract in the first place. How interesting that this can effect us on many levels other than just the physical.

Through the practice of yoga you can move your wellbeing and happiness back to its original intended default. To get there, to nurture, pleasure and empower the Self, all you need do is move, breathe, and connect to the sensations you feel while learning to avoid identifying with them. Eventually, the things you do automatically — those things that don’t nurture or empower you — such as eating that take-out lunch or sitting with your shoulders hunched over a keyboard — will be more and more noticeable and once noticed able to be changed.

Through yoga and its inherent ability to connect you to yourself, you’ll find new power to create something better. This has been the experience of so many who have taken the time to add a yoga practice to their daily lives. This can be your experience too.

Yoga Club DFW | 1700 S. Main Street | Duncanville, Texas 75137 (second floor)

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