Yoga is about much more than doing challenging poses on mountaintops in skimpy clothes showing off those great abdominal muscles. Most people will never be able to do many of the poses you see on the internet and magazine covers without years of dedicated practice. Many of us coming to yoga are also well beyond the twenty to thirty year age group that appear to make up all these photographs.
The way yoga is marketed today leaves many of us feeling intimidated and left laughing to ourselves at the thought of doing yoga, something we need to move beyond. So many benefits have come from yoga’s increasing popularity in the West. Yoga has become familiar enough that many people start their path by challenging themselves, developing a much deeper relationship with themselves that expands beyond the physical aspects of yoga. Popularity in the West has also caused a resurgence of yoga in the East where it was a dying tradition amongst many.
Asana is a Sanskrit term used in yoga to describe a specific yoga posture. Sanskrit is an ancient language from India which, like Latin, has died out as commonly used language. It is the language of the first yoga texts, recording postures still used today, such as tadasana (mountain pose), shavasana (corpse pose), dandasana (staff pose).
If you don’t want to exercise, then how can you yoga?
Without knowing any of these techniques, or feel intimated by them, where do you start?
Small steps can lead to big changes. The most important step is the first one. Every great journey begins with just one step. Don’t start yourself off to hard. Start small. Get up five minutes earlier in the morning and perform the sun salutation or do five minutes of breathing deep into your belly before going to bed. No need to start with an hour of yoga a day. Be realistic with yourself. Allow yourself time to change gradually.
If you are not used to any kind of physical activity, start going for walks. Slowly build up the amount of time you walk, starting with just 5 minutes a day, building up the time incrementally. Stop as regularly as you need to catch your breath, setting your own pace. Use a stick if you struggle with balance. Don’t give up when you struggle, but slow down. It is better to walk slowly at your own pace than not to walk at all. Walking is a fantastic exercise because it gets our blood flowing enough to exercise our hearts without fear of overexertion.
You can also add in exercise to your current schedule and habits. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Even one flight of stairs gets the heart pumping, giving it that boost of exercise. Instead of taking the car to the corner store, take an extra 10 minutes and walk. These small moments help keep your body fit and healthy.
Another tip is finding something to keep you accountable. This can be a partner you can work out with who will help encourage you, or a YouTube exercise routine that keeps you to schedule. Having something else to track your progress and workout routine helps encourage you to keep at it, and not to quit.
You don’t need to go to a yoga studio or gym to start exercising, and you do not need to spend a penny. Once you feel a little more confident and exercise has become a regular part of your routine, then go out and join a yoga studio or gym, if you wish. You want this to become a lifestyle change, so start by building your own confidence. Find a workout that also makes you feel good and happy about your body and self.
When you exercise, try to maintain an awareness of the mind-body connection. The mind should always respect the body and the body should always respect the mind. As you exercise, pay attention to how you are feeling. Are you breathing calmly through the nostrils or exerting yourself? If you want to exercise throughout your life, learn how to exercise without pushing yourself too far. Learn to get in the zone where there is a connection between your mind and body. The phrase “No Pain No Gain” gets said all the time, but this is not the way to stay injury free and happy while exercising.
A good yoga class makes people feel really good when they leave. Attendants have exercised their bodies, their blood is flowing, the tensions in the body have been released, finishing with Shavasana which deepens these effects on the body. Yoga is known for creating a mind and body connection and this is why it feels so good when we begin to master the art. The same philosophy of mind, body connection should apply to all our exercise routines.
Yogasana as Exercise –
There are many different styles of asana, and your personality and lifestyle will attract you towards a specific type of yoga. Experiment with different styles to find what suits you, but try not to be too dismissive of some and give each style more than one try. Allow the body to tell you what it likes rather than the ego and mind.
A restorative, or yin, style class is good for all to enjoy. Some of you may feel bored with this style of class, but challenge yourself to go deeper into the poses, to allow your body to relax. We can challenge ourselves in ways beyond hard physical activity. It is good to rest the body and mind and to stretch out those underused or tight muscles.
In the evening our bodies should start winding down for the day to prepare for sleep. Avoid any type of hard physical activity after 6pm, as this heats the body, causing inflammation, and can be detrimental to our sleep. Any exercise after 6pm should be a more relaxed, cooling, meditative practice.
Your beautiful body is your container for life and you are responsible for keeping it as healthy as possible.
Watch our free beginner yoga practices, and thanks for all your feedback J