Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Demystifying Yoga

When my dentist asked me last week, "So what's new and exciting since we've seen you last?" I proudly said the first thing that came to mind: "Well, I'm a certified yoga teacher now."

"Oh," was his immediate response, "So you can put your foot behind your head?"

"Uh..." I laughed nervously, "not exactly..." and in my mind I was like, "Dude. No?!?!"

My gosh, I just like to think that yoga is more mainstream now, that the benefits of the practice are at the forefront and that the majority of the public understands those things. I feel a little sad when I hear comments like the one from my dentist - assuming that yoga is just about striking outlandish poses that can hardly be imagined by most of us. Because to the layman, what in the world could be enticing about putting your foot behind your head? At least it's not for me.

I had this post written and scheduled to be published when the universe provided me with a little reality check yesterday. I was offered another reminder from a sweet friend - a reminder that I've practiced yoga long enough that I take for granted what it's like to be a beginner. There are so many different aspects to yoga, and I realize that plenty of people still do have a misconception about what yoga is.

One of my goals as a new yoga teacher is to demystify yoga. I love the philosophical side of yoga, but I understand and respect that it’s not for everyone. I want to educate anyone who will listen about the basic benefits of the practice; how yoga is so very simple and wonderful and accessible to everyone - not just for those select few people on the planet who can put their foot behind their head.

Most of you know that I've practiced yoga for 20 years. It's difficult to explain within the confines of a blog post how much yoga has changed who I am; how it's settled me and changed the way I view myself and the world around me.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about my yoga teacher training has been learning more about the human body in terms of anatomy and the function of our glandular system. My teachers incorporate a lot of scientific studies in our training and I love that! I love learning how science is catching up with yoga - how scientists are proving what ancient yogis knew instinctively thousands of years ago.

So I started thinking... If I had to pick one thing about yoga that's been the most beneficial to me what would it be? The answer was easy! It's the breath work (pranayama).
Years of stress and worry and lack of self-esteem created a habit of shallow breathing for me. I discovered early on in my practice that part of the reason I felt so good after a yoga class was that I had spent the past hour breathing deeply. It wasn't until recently, through my teacher training studies, that I learned the benefits of deep breathing by way of a scientific explanation.

Taking a slow and deep breath sends a signal to your brain that all is well. A slow deep breath sends a message to your brain. "Chill out, Brain. There's no danger here, and there is no need to tell my body to produce stress hormones to keep me in a fight and flight mode. And tell your friends, the other parts of my body responsible for protecting me against scary things, that all is well in my world." Exhale, slow and steady. Brain says, "Oh. Ok then. I'll just produce the other hormones that make you feel good instead." Controlling the way we breathe literally changes our physiology!

Yoga helped me to remember my breath; to remember the correct way to breathe. I didn't understand how it happened until recently, but breathing helped me to calm my nervous system, alleviate anxiety, depression and insomnia. Deep breathing = happy, healthy me.

When we practice yoga, we open ourselves to a method of healing that is centuries old. My hope is that we'll meet on our yoga mats and take what we need for the good of our bodies and our minds. If our hearts and souls follow suit, well that's just icing on the cake!

Put my foot behind my head?
Psh. No thanks.

PS: My mandala was drawn with a gold Sharpie marker, filled in with watercolor paint, and a little Stickles for some sparkle.


debs14 said...

I think it is great how we are gradually coming round to the holistic view of health. The most fundamental part of our body is the ability to breath, and if you're not doing that right then everything else will be out of synch! My son was trained in transcendental meditation a while ago and he meditates every single day, just for 20 mins or so but he finds it to be an excellent start to the day to just be quiet, to get rid of all the outside noise and calm the whole body down.
Having seen how addicted you are to mandalas I thought I had to give it a go at the weekend! It was amazingly relaxing and I can see how you find yourself doing them all the time. However, I am not as artistic as you and mine was nowhere near as neat - practice, practice, practice ...

scrappyjacky said...

Although I've never done any yoga....I completely agree with you about the breathing....pilates also teaches correct breathing.....and I always feel so much more relaxed when I breathe deeply.

Sian said...

A good post to read. I'm rethinking my suggestion on the mandala book...maybe a beginner yoga book instead? or as well? :)

Susi said...

Great post! I really need to learn yoga breathing techniques. I'm stressed more than not!

Susi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

Another thought-provoking post, even for those of us who aren't yoga devotees. I love that gold and pink mandala---maybe my favorite (so far!)

Ruth said...

How I wish you were here to help me take my first steps with yoga! I keep asking at my gym about beginner yoga classes and they keep ignoring me!

Maria Ontiveros said...

I know I breathe deeply when I'm engrossed in my art as well.

Maria Ontiveros said...

I know I breathe deeply when I'm engrossed in my art as well.

alexa said...

Great to read your post full of useful things. As a therapist, I often work with people on their breathing because their fight/flight systems are in full swing. When I first practised yoga forty-five years ago, there was a lady outside the hall every session remonstrating with us and telling us we were going to go to hell. So glad the world moves forward!

Ruth said...

Lovely post. I have been doing yoga on and off since I was 18 (now 32!) but still think a beginner. It's like it opens up my body and my breathing. Like you I have used it to help anxiety, such a powerful tool. Any suggestions post c section? I'm 10 days.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...