Every day the phone rings at a yoga studio with someone stating, “My doctor recommended I try yoga.” Others will declare “I’m old, I’m overweight, I have arthritis, I have fibromyalgia, I can’t balance, I’m not flexible.” Many of these excuses wrapped in inquiry are from those afraid to try yoga. They’ve seen the cover of a yoga magazine or book in which the yoga practitioner is contorted, beautiful, 23, thin and smiling like this is how she wakes up. Yes, that yoga is available. No, that’s not all there is.
People come to yoga for many different reasons. At the top of that list; stress-relief. This may be yoga’s biggest gift. Yoga in many of its forms relaxes the body and calms the mind. This gives the adrenal glands a break and takes us out of fight or flight, even if it’s just for an hour or so.
Our culture has escalated over the past few decades into a “doer” mode. The more we do, the better people we are. Accomplishment and competition are everything. Children are over-scheduled and their over-extended parents hold down one or more jobs while still trying to shuttle the kids to their various appointments and hold the family together. The economy has created a tremendous amount of stress. Homes and jobs being lost or even the threat of that happening, puts the body in constant readiness to react.
Yoga helps create space between an event and a reaction, allowing more time for a considered response. Rather than lashing out at a crazy driver, you might just be able to let it go.
Nearly every style of yoga can help relieve stress, from the gentlest to the most vigorous. If you’re new to yoga, it is recommended that you start at a gentle or beginner level. The beginning level classes offer the most instruction for each pose, they move a little slower and the teachers take a little more time to help align students and explain the benefits of each posture.
In most gentle classes you will find every shape and size of body, ages ranging from the teens to the nineties, and a very welcoming atmosphere. Everyone comes to yoga with their “stuff.” The fact that someone can touch their toes does not make them enlightened. People are working through injuries, illnesses, back trouble, work trouble, relationship issues and stress among other things.
In yoga the focus is inward. As humans we will immediately, visually assess a situation, like a yoga class and make comparisons. 5 – 10 minutes into a gentle class your attention will be brought from the external world of competition and ego to the internal world of peace and self-acceptance.
As you become comfortable with the postures in the beginning levels you may choose to try other more vigorous classes or stay right where you are. It is always your choice. Always your practice.
Start building your practice today.