Yoga is for Everyone
Since ancient times, yoga has been continuously adapted to suit the needs of individuals from different times, cultures, and traditions. The young have come to explore and develop their potential. The sick and aged have come for healing and a fresh perspective. Spiritual seekers have come to find freedom from the burdens of the material world or to find peace at the feet of their God. All who come to #yoga are welcome.
In the hands of the wise teacher, yoga meets the individual as he is and where he is, addressing each person's unique interests and concerns. Prior to my own experience in teacher's training, I was mislead by the misconceptions - that yoga was just another form of exercise, more for the really thin and flexible and maybe a spiritual act. What has really intrigued me about yoga though, as I've become more familiar is that it is, in fact, for everyone.
One can choose from a variety of different styles of yoga and even within a specific style and level within that style, there are a number of modifications. There are yoga classes for #seniors, the handicapped, #children, pregnant women, those with #trauma, those with limited mobility, and even those with addiction. What I hadn't any real appreciation for is that while most all other exercises are designed for you to push to the level of the instructor, to push beyond what you thought you could do, yoga is inherently meant for you to identify with your individual needs and to honor those. Not one of us will move like another or even like we did the day prior. We can each do the very full expression of a pose and look entirely different because our bodies are structured differently and will shape differently, but ultimately this journey of self-discovery is what is so empowering and healing. Yoga helps us become more embodied.
We are learning that our beliefs and emotions impact our health to a significant degree, maybe more so even than genetics. Becoming more mindful in itself can improve health. Our environment, nutrition, movement, relationships, #sleep, and connection to #nature are interrelated and ultimately determine our state of health. The body possesses an intrinsic, organic wholeness, and the key to health lies in the balanced interaction of all these systems. We have an opportunity to change our actions, to effect great changes in our degree of wellness, if we can come to understand who we are, how we can refine our lifestyle choices, and ultimately improve how we feel, no matter our genetic predisposition.
What we have to acknowledge however, is that our wellness and overall happiness is influenced by our conditioning. This imprints on us in our earliest days resulting from our particular interpersonal and social environments, and the result of all our past decisions and actions.
At birth our movements are instinctive. We feel hunger or fear and we respond by crying. As we grow, we become more coordinated and communicative, more intentional. We learn to walk, talk, and play. We learn to relate to other people and this creates a relational map in our brain, a network of sorts, through repetition. We learn actions and rewards. We create muscle memory. Like learning to ride a bike, at first we have to really concentrate, offering all our effort, in time we are able to ride without hands and while talking with our friends. We learn processes that later become unconscious to us - the beginning of our conditioning. This is why we walk, talk, and behave like those around us.
As we continue to grow, even beyond childhood, we continue to develop and become conditioned. Our neuroplasticity becomes more organized and more cognizant, even unconsciously to the rules of society. Some of these behaviors aren't supportive of wellness, but unfortunately, because we can perform some of those bad habits and still function, those bad habits are reinforced, inhibiting our optimal development. The consequence of this conditioning is imbalance at various levels of our system, accumulation of stress, and finally dis-ease.
My therapist often reminds me however, that we are resilient. We can rewire. We can change and become reflectively self-conscious of our conditioning behavior. We can break cycles and introduce new patterns of behavior that will, over time, replace the old ones and help us regain control of the direction of change in our lives. This liberation from the effects of conditioning, on all levels, is the purpose of yoga. This conditioning is samskara. What yoga offers is embodiment.
Normally, humans are focused outward, at least in first-world countries. We look into the world and because our concern is more about our children, spouse, co-workers, job duties, and responsibilities, we are less in tune with ourselves. We lack #mindfulness to the mechanical and repetitive nature of our actions, both physical and mental; thus, a starting point in breaking these cycles and changing the quality of our lives is to internalize our attention - which is key to yoga practice.
We do this through bringing attention to the body, the breath, and the mind - asana practice. At the most basic level, this practice involves consciously moving the body into specific postures - asanas - remaining in these postures for any variety of time, whether a single breath or several minutes and organizing them together in particular sequences or flows. Asana practice was developed as a means of purifying and restructuring the body, bringing it the qualities of stability, strength, flexibility, stillness, and a sense of clarity and well-being. It does this by introducing some nonmechanical elements into our daily life, through which we free ourselves from our prior conditioning and effect complete transformation.
What this means is that in spite of some misconception, even among yoga teachers, yoga is not about mastering various poses. This is an attempt to meet external standards creates a dysfunctional pattern and completely misses the deeper value of #asana practice. When this is one's approach to yoga, which I believe classes such as hot yoga are somewhat at higher risk for, the attempt to achieve a form through a willful effort of muscular contraction creates a rigidity, and ultimately other problems such as compression at the joints and restriction of blood flow. The body creates a resistance, stress is absorbed in vulnerable areas, and problems almost inevitably develop, either immediately or after some time. Our efforts to create this perfect asana then become harmful and are really not honoring the needs of the body.
If we think function and interrelation though, we can see our movements as a systematic record of the structural postiential of the human body. The benefits one hopes to achieve then aren't from these postures specifically, but from the form at the level of function - a study of movement potential, not in the attainment of perfect form. We have to check in with our bodies on the mat, noticing what we notice, and identifying how to adapt or allow our own movements in relation to our own structural needs and capabilities.
We Begin Where We Are
The only way to go anywhere is to go from where we are at; thus, we must come to understand ourselves more deeply, continually adjusting and improving so we can meet our individual needs. In this way, yoga truly is for everyone. Maybe better, everyone has a basic need for yoga. We must acknowledge the mechanisms that are responsible for our current condition and state of health. This digging in is more important really than achieving the perfect asana. We must gain self-awareness for optimal transformation.
Yoga teaches us how to improve our functions and system interactions and how to use our bodies more efficiently. Harmonious and efficient movement prevents wear and tear on the system and dissipates less energy. You really can change habitual habits and patterns improving your stress and even skeletal alignment. You will feel greater mechanical freedom - truly, you will be amazed at tight and restricted you are prior to beginning to move on the mat.
Our practice is committed to yoga for all our clients. We are currently renovating a clinic in Carmel with a studio so we can offer our clients classes to meet their needs for optimal #wellness. Dr. Lane is a YTT200 certified yoga instructor and is currently working through to her 500 hour certificate. She is trained to teach children and as a midwife, has a special interest in women's health such as prenatal, momma and baby, and proper core strengthening. Working through trauma, utilizing yoga, to assist one in becoming more embodied is truly where her heart lies. Join us in our new studio!