Many people view yoga as the fancy postures they see in the media. There is a perception of skinny white women in their fancy yoga gear showing off their strength and flexibility on Facebook and Instagram. I have to admit I was originally attracted to yoga for the physical practice & I do enjoy taking pictures of fancy postures for Facebook. It felt like a natural progression from my gymnastics and cheerleading days. However, I was hooked due to the therapeutic benefits I was receiving on a daily basis from my practice & learned that yoga was more than the physical exercise.
The therapeutic benefits of yoga are numerous and spelled out succinctly by Dr. Timothy McCall in an article titled 38 Health Benefits of Yoga on Yoga Journal’s web page.
I feel that I was lucky to step into a studio that was rooted in the Classical Yoga tradition. My teacher, Shri Hamilton Hubbard of Bliss Yoga, encouraged us to practice all of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Every session incorporated teaching on the 8 limbs and facilitated practices such as pranayama, pratyahara, asana, and meditation. She taught that the physical poses, asanas, are defined as that which is steady and that which is comfortable. Our conscious breathing, pranayama, is the bridge that unites the realms of the body, mind, and spirit. The student is to work at creating a relationship between the breath and movement.
At Life Balance, we continue with the tradition of teaching Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga. Senior teacher, Tru Willow, is guiding students through a 5 week series on The Meaning & Practice of Yoga starting 4/20 at 9am.
Below are some of the guidelines our teachers will continuously reinforce in each of the class sessions:
- Practice pranayama (breath work) in all asana (postures): it is infinitely more important how you sound and feel above how you look in a posture. You will gain more benefit from your practice if you keep this as a guideline.
- Your asana practice goal is to practice relaxation with appropriate effort: No pain, no gain is not our mantra. We want to teach our students how to cultivate strength without strain and do this without adding tension to the body or mind.
- Be consistent in your practice to obtain desired results. Practitioners need to be practicing with enough regularity to build sufficient strength, stamina, and endurance. One will see great results with 2-3 times a week, more profound results 3-4 times a week, and life changing results 5-6 times a week. Practice does not have to be 90 minutes every day to provide benefits. In fact, consistent daily practice is far more effective than long sessions 1-2 times a week.
- Finally, we incorporate meditation into every session at Life Balance because we know that benefits are profound and many students will not meditate on their own. The meditation practice is the portion that teaches the practitioner how to train the mind. The subtle techniques do provide the most profound benefits.
Ultimately, we aim to empower our students and patients at Life Balance with the tools necessary to live a balanced life. We love to see our students in the studio more than 2 times a week AND we are teaching them how to develop their own home practice for the days they cannot make it to the studio.
Below is a simple home practice to unwind after a long day!
Find a comfortable space to practice, dim the lights and turn off all distractions. Begin seated on the floor in a cross legged position. Close your eyes and connect with your breath (1:1 breathing). Lengthen each inhale to a count of 5-8 and match each exhale with a count of 5-8. Do this for 5-10 rounds. Take a gentle twist to the right (left hand on right knee) for 3-5 breaths and then a gentle twist to the left (right hand on left knee) for 3-5 breaths.
Find a table top position (all fours) and do 3-5 rounds of cat/cow to warm up the spine. From here, exhale into downward facing dog. Spend 5 breaths here then exhale back to your knees and sink back into child pose (5 breaths).
Locate a wall to set up for Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall pose). The position is dependent on your level of hamstring/hip flexibility. If you are very open your body creates an 90 degree angle with the hips closest to the wall and if you are more tight your body will create more of a 120 degree angle with the hips further away from the wall. Spend 5-15 minutes here and do 1:2 breathing. 1:2 breath technique involves taking an inhale for 3-5 counts and an exhale for 6-10 counts. In other words 3:6 or 5:10
This can be your final asana OR you can set up for savasana and enjoy a 5-20 minute meditation while relaxing on the floor. Essential oils such as lavender, can further enhance your relaxation experience as you unwind and prepare for bed.
I hope you have a great day!