I want to make yoga as accessible as possible for as many people as possible. And, more selfishly, I wanted to be able to do yoga at home without moving furniture. And as I accumulated ways to do that, I realized that I was probably not the only person in the world with that challenge.
I never saw a solution until a woman with one leg asked for lessons. In the course of figuring out how to adapt the yoga poses for her, I discovered that those same modifications made yoga at home possible for me.
I want everyone to be able to do yoga.
That's why the photographs are of real people (my students). As a yoga teacher I've run into many people who wanted to do yoga but were scared away by the photos of slender paragons who can put their feet behind their heads.
The truth is, it doesn't matter whether you can do those pretzel-like poses. What matters is that you do the best you can on any given day. You'll get the same benefit as someone who can do an effortless handstand.
Start where you are today and work toward where you want to be. It's a day by day thing. Improvements are incremental and one day you discover you are doing something you couldn't do a year ago!
People who attend yoga classes but don't have room at home for practice. These can be apartment dwellers or folks that live in houses that are not quite McMansions.
People who feel awkward about attending classes for a variety of reasons:
They think their appearance won't measure up to the expected appearance of yogis. We are easily intimidated by the photographs of the elite yogis and we expect all of our classmates to look like that.
They fear they are not fit enough to attend even a beginning yoga class. This can be a legitimate fear. Beginning yoga students run the gamut from limber college students to folks in wheel chairs. It's expecting a lot for a teacher to make folks at all those various starting points feel comfortable in one class.
They think they are too old to do yoga or that they would be significantly older than everyone else in the class.
They have a handicap of one kind or another. Yoga classes for handicapped people are not available everywhere.
People who don't have access to classes near them or whose schedule doesn't permit class attendance.
The important thing is to listen to your body and your internal wisdom when approaching each pose. If something hurts, or if something is scary to you, either back off or just don't do it. You know best what's going on with your body.
Integrate your breath with your movements (and not just when doing yoga).
When you bend forward or bring your arms forward (or lower them), you should exhale.
When you lean back, open, or lift your arms, you should inhale.
Don't worry if you can't do everything. Every body is different for a variety of reasons:
We are born with different genes. Some lineages are fundamentally stronger or more limber than others.
The ways we habitually use our bodies differ. We stand and sit in certain positions habitually. Years, and even, decades of habit are not undone in a week or two.
We suffer and injury and compensate for it (and when the injury is healed, the compensation remains).
Some have conditions that make certain movements or poses difficult or inadvisable. The good news is that everybody can do something someone else cannot!
There are several real benefits to taking a class (or classes) at a studio, gym or other public venue. One of the most useful is, you paid for it, you're more likely to show up for it! That is very important--especially when you are just starting out with yoga. Another major benefit is that an experienced and knowledgeable teacher can help you become aware of how a pose should feel and point out when you need to make adjustments. Just look for a teacher that suits you and a class that is in line with where you are physically. When you are 60+ and have been sedentary for years you'll need a different style of class than someone who is 24 and still flexible from gymnastics. Finally, a good class can offer a great deal of support for you in your practice and builds a sense of camaraderie.
That said, practicing yoga at home can make a huge difference in how rapidly you progress in your yoga. The more you practice at home, the more you improve. Also, the more yoga you do the better you feel on a day-to-day basis.
Just as important, If you have the means to practice yoga at home, you can address issues as they come up. For instance, if you are having trouble getting to sleep because your body is restless, you can do a few yoga exercises to help dissipate that restlessness. If your body is tight because of the tensions of the day or because you spent hours hunched over a computer, a little yoga will help you switch gears to enjoy the lower stress environment of home or so you can enjoy a gathering. For many maladies like head-ache, head cold, or a head that feels like it's full of cotton, doing some yoga can act as first aid.
I know it does. Many of my students tell me that yoga has changed their lives. One student said that even in the busiest family times her husband would rather take over with the kids so she can get to yoga class. He can really tell the difference in how she handles the stresses of living if she misses class even one week. She says, "I have greater focus now than before I began yoga," and " Yoga allows me to settle my mind."
This is because, even though we generally start yoga for reasons of physical health, it really acts as a kind of meditation because so many of the poses call for us to pay close attention to all of our senses as we work through them. This means that while we are practicing yoga we are also focusing on the here and now and setting worries aside for a little while.
My best personal experience with yoga happens every time I teach a class. No matter what I feel like before class starts, no matter what my students feel like before class starts, we all feel better after class. I feel more truly myself during and after every class. And as time goes on, more and more of my "personal" life is permeated with the blessings of yoga. So, I guess you could say that my best experience with yoga is happening now!
One Spring my yoga teacher at the community ed course I was taking announced she would no longer teach the class. She suggested I take it over. I was dumbfounded, flabbergasted and shocked.
I didn't believe I knew enough or could do enough to teach others (plainly, she thought different). I also was scared to death of standing up in front of other people and speaking. I turned the opportunity down on the spot.
And over the summer my mind kept returning to that moment. I began to imagine what a class would look like that I would feel competent to teach. Then, fearfully, I presented my idea for a gentle class for people who were intimidated by yoga as it is generally presented by the media. It was accepted and I began teaching.
My fear grew steadily less and less as I began to enjoy myself more and more. This was greatly bolstered by the positive feedback I kept getting at the end of each semester. It took a few sessions for it to dawn on me that this is what I was born to do. I have never looked back.
I taught more classes, including more advanced classes. And teaching taught me more about yoga and teaching yoga even as I continued to educate myself more about it outside of class. The learning continues to this day.
I do. Not all of them take the recommendation. Many people hear about the benefits of yoga but feel that their lives are too busy to take the time to try it out. What they have trouble seeing is that the time it takes to attend class or do yoga at home can improve their mental and physical state to the point that the time is more than made up for with the increase in well-being and decrease is stress that they experience.
• Increases Flexibility
• Tones and Strengthens Muscles
• Lubricates joints, ligaments and tendons
• Massages Internal Organs and Glands
• Helps Develop Body Awareness
• Detoxifies Body
• Reverses Effects of Aging on the Body
• Decreases Stress and Associated Diseases
• Improves Breathing
• Brings Body into Balance with Itself as Well as with Mind and Spirit
In short, people experience improved overall health and a greater sense of well-being.
Because it makes them feel better every day.
I can't think of anyone. It may be that some people should avoid specific poses because of health conditions. For instance, a person with high blood pressure or glaucoma might want to avoid the more strenuous of inverted poses. If you have a health concern, consult with your health professional and let your yoga teacher know what you need to be careful of.
It depends on how often you practice your yoga. Even once a week, say, in class, makes a profound difference over time. one student who began with week arms and a precarious gate became sturdy and walked with confidence in less than a year.
If you practice more often the changes happen more rapidly. Another student went out and bought dvds so she could practice daily. By the end of her first year she had catapulted beyond anything I?d ever seen a student accomplish--especially in so short a time.
Early on in my yoga career it took me three weeks of classes to feel a difference in how I felt every day. I said that to one group of students and several of them piped up that they?d noticed a difference in the week following their first class!
Whether fast or slow, the changes happen. It starts with feeling better as you go about life, then, one day, you notice you can do what you couldn?t when you started.
A few years back, Yoga Journal conducted a comparison of athletes from a variety of disciplines (running, weight-lifting, etc., and yoga). All of them spent approximately the same amount of time working out. They discovered that, physically speaking, yogis (even though yoga is not considered aerobic) were equal to any other athlete in fitness, strength, cardiovascular health, etc. And they were more flexible!
Another difference, for those of us who don?t aspire to athletic heights, is that with yoga you can start small, be gentle with yourself, and improve over time.
Yoga encourages us listen to our own bodies. It is a kind of physical meditation that helps us to cultivate everyday mindfulness. Along the way it helps us become more compassionate toward ourselves as well as toward others.
Gently, over time, yoga brings body, mind, and spirit into balance.