Like many people, I came to yoga in the 1990s mostly out of curiosity. And, like many people, I was interested in yoga for its physical benefits. I had always been involved in some type of exercise or sport, starting in high school with field hockey and volleyball, then continuing through the tennis and racquetball boom. In the late 70s, I worked at the YMCA for three years and have maintained a gym or health club membership ever since. Running, aerobic classes, stationary bikes, weight machines…did them all. For me, yoga’s best offer was a subtle promise to stretch my spine. As a short, small-boned woman whose grandmothers and aunts all had the shrimp-backed, sure signs of osteoporosis, this had great appeal. Any help with concentration and attention would be a bonus. Surprisingly, there were other unexpected benefits.
Whenever I find myself on top of a mountain in winter, especially when it’s snowing, I feel a rush of emotions. Above all, I am always amazed that I am there; that I ever took up the sport to begin with and then stuck with it despite a discouraging beginning. Equally important, I am grateful that I can physically do it and can afford it, as it takes stamina, some level of skill, and a decent chunk of money. I’ve experienced this same introspective moment every year for 30 years straight and I’ve experienced it all over the globe.
It’s happened to everyone. You walk into your regular weekly class, the one you love with the teacher you love, and — OH NO! — there is someone else on a mat at the front of the room. It’s happened to me as a student and I’ve also been that unfamiliar, spurious person nervously smiling at the front of the room. Continue reading
As yoga gains in popularity, the claims of its benefits are numerous, ranging from the technically medical to the wildly metaphysical. At times it seems like a cure-all, which can also make it appear over-rated and perhaps bogus.
Yoga is a both a weight-bearing and stretching exercise so it is expected that it will improve your strength and flexibility. From my own practice and the comments from my colleagues and students, I’ve decided that there are three simple yet wonderful things that are particular to yoga and can be widely achieved.
I’ve always seemed to be directionally challenged. I am not alone. Left-right confusion is a common phenomenon affecting about 25 percent of the population. Over the years I’ve learned to work around it. I always take an extra pause before registering which is my right or my left and I prefer to draw a diagram than give verbal directions. If navigating in a car, I will tell the driver to turn to your side or my side because it takes me too long to get the correct word out. I’ve been told not to worry; it is not a form of dyslexia nor a neurological problem. Great. But, now that I’ve become a yoga teacher, I’ve found this to be more troublesome then ever.
The U.S. Women’s Soccer team, winners of the 2015 World Cup, are ranked #1 in the world and were recently honored at a White House celebration. These women, like many top female athletes, are an inspiration for girls who participate in sports at any level, from playing kickball in the streets to competing in school tournaments. But for women like me, who grew up without Title IX to guarantee fair access to athletic opportunities, their accomplishments resonate at a much deeper level.
Yoga has been around for 5-10 thousand years, give or take a few thousand, and now — maybe more than ever — it is a much needed practice. In fact, because of the way modern living affects us both physically and mentally, it’s likely that most people today need (or will benefit from) yoga. I truly believe that yoga can be the perfect antidote to modern life. Here are the reasons why.