Written By Jasmine
I first experienced hatha yoga about 31 years ago. I took a course at my local college and continued practicing well into my first pregnancy. I am not athletic at all (alright, I was a bowler!) and I loved it. I know I reaped many benefits from it for the time I did it. Then, after baby came along, life happened, another baby then a car accident in 1986 messed me up royally for a good 15 years and left me feeling certain degrees of fragility after that.
I came back to yoga over a year ago. I know now that had I realized at the time of my physical damage due to the accident, yoga would have shaved years off my suffering not to mention helped me in so many other ways I have experienced in my advancing middle age. No bother though, because I am appreciating the benefits today!
I entered into it carefully with respect to my weakened back and neck. I poured over many video’s to find routines that would not send me back to short of traction. I really should have sought out another class but stubbornness for personal reasons ruled that one out. My physical problems over the years have allowed me a heightened consciousness of any activity that might threaten my condition. (I would highly recommend anyone else does just that, to learn the poses under the watchful eye of a trained yoga practitioner! If done wrong, you can really hurt yourself.) I entered yoga practice carefully and with conscious respect to what my body was telling me with each pose I tried. In the beginning I added another pose one at a time so I could feel how I felt the next morning.
I am now structurally stronger, feeling more graceful and toned as well as finding myself more enabled to drop these pesky pounds. I have added Pilates for a more intense workout. I have more energy and my insomnia problems are all but gone. I am more aware of my body as I move through my days in that my posture awareness in standing, sitting and moving about has become a conscious effort to maintain in my shoulders, stomach tightness and lower back.
I incorporate meditation into my workouts and the result is a calmness afterwards that I carry with me all the time and can call up at any time, when stress creeps in, by simply breathing deep and slow with a clearing of the mind that refreshes. Or, if time and place allows, by doing one or two poses to take me back to calmness. Five minutes can work wonders on the mind, body and soul.
My first choice of videos was “Healing Yoga: For Aches and Pains”. This program uses yoga to address and correct chronic injuries and illness. It is gentle yoga designed for all fitness levels helping to increase the range of motion to one’s spine and joints while promoting flexibility and fluid body movement. It was a wonderful place for me to start.
My second choice of videos was “Just My Size: Yoga with Megan Garcia”. She is a plus-size model with a “real” body and presents an easy-to-follow, viewer friendly approach no matter what body size they carry. It’s also a great starting point for beginning yoga practitioners. I started out slow and carefully. I felt positive results almost immediately. She also has a book called “MegaYoga by Megan Garcia” that I found helpful for more in depth instruction.
The third video I recommend is a dvd called “Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies”. Don’t let the “dummies” part put you off! It’s great for beginners and I found the instructor pleasant and real. Also there are extra instructions helpful for first timers.
I used other sources but these three were the most helpful in starting out. After weeks of regular practice and feeling a need to add a more intense workout, I added “Crunch: Super SlimDown” which is a combination of Pilates and yoga. Rather than doing individual poses of yoga, this offers a flow of poses for a more intense workout. I find for myself, when I am finished, it’s the perfect time to go into meditation.
The most important thing to know about yoga is it is not about knocking yourself out as much as going into each pose with body awareness and grace. Yoga combines body, mind and spirit. Slow even breathing, in and out thru the nose, at all times during the workout. If you feel pain at all at any time then you either stop or back off of intensity of that pose. I suggested yoga to a friend once who was very athletic. She tried it on her own and reported back to me that she was very sore the next day. She thought she had done a good workout. The problem was she had approached it as she had any other activity she had done in the past as in “no pain no gain”. When I explained to her about clearing the mind when doing the poses and becoming aware of what each and every muscle is doing and how it feels as well as how far to go she realized that her approach to yoga was wrong. Remember, yoga is as much a spiritual effort as a physical one; they intertwine when done with intent in the moment. The goal is not to do and look just like the yoga instructor. It is to learn the pose correctly and work at your own level and pace.
When beginning yoga and looking for a good dvd, look for one that has modifications in it. They will show the instructor and also one or two others doing the same poses only modified for different levels of ability. (I have found some good ones thru my county library system.) I have found it good practice to view the whole dvd before doing them. A quiet place to practice with a good yoga mat is important. Check your stray thoughts outside the room and focus on listening to your body as you begin to work on the poses. Enjoy the feeling of awareness as individual muscles respond to them and blood flows thru your whole body.
After sitting at my keyboard and typing this, I am feeling a bit tight in my shoulders and neck. I think I will go do some yoga now! I hope you will consider this brilliant activity and wish you well on your journey.
(Written by Jasmine – webmistress The Majickal Garden )