Are you wondering if yoga is for you?
Every week, I teach a specifically designed yoga class to a group of cancer survivors.
On her first class, a women who had to have both her breasts surgically removed due to cancer, said to me,” I was told that I could never get rid of the tightness in my chest and my shallow breathing.”
She showed up for class, moved even when it was hard for her, learned to breath and now she is amazed at the freedom yoga has given her.
Most North Americans see yoga as a stretching or posture class but yoga is that and much more.
It is about stretching and freeing your body from its tightness, and it also teaches us to encompass a way of breathing, moving and living within your body and your life.
In North America, the rise of yoga’s popularity has been driven from the quest to lose a few pounds and have a better body.
The main question I often get from my new yoga students is: “Will I be able to do the posture on the cover of Yoga Journal?”
The average person assumes that this is yoga, and if they’re not flexible then they can’t practice yoga. This is definitely not true.
Most of us can benefit from yoga classes to attain a stronger, healthier body and calmer mind. And if you were an Indian Yogi, it was also to have the strength in the body to sit quietly in meditation.
But we do not need to put our foot behind our head or be able to do a yoga posture from the cover of Yoga Journal to practice yoga.
We practice yoga to help us create real life flexibility, strength, stabilization and full body integration.
As well, we need the multi-layered health benefits that yoga provides to the body.
All the internal system, from the nervous system, to digestion to hormones to metabolic systems are activated and regulated.
The cardiovascular, brain and energy function are enhanced.
Stress levels decrease after a few classes.
Your body’s’ muscular, emotional and mental wellbeing is integrated.
The physical yoga practice does not mean going beyond what you can already do. You can practice yoga within your range of motion and within your limitations and improve with time. The body rebuilds itself through a yoga practice.
North Americans also are on a quest for more peace, balance and happiness in their everyday life. This quest for happiness is not new, but the cultural context in which it takes place is.
We are bombarded with advertising and media that exploits our desires to be peaceful and happy. And the media suggests that if you buy this or that then happiness and peace will be yours.
We have deeply ingrained habits of giving most of out time and energy to things that ultimately leave us with little satisfaction.
This lack of satisfaction sends us in search of another book, another course or seminar. When finding balance, peace and happiness maybe as simple as finding a yoga class of your choice and practicing.
Even in the yoga practices we may believe that peace and happiness is attained when we have better postures or meditate perfectly.
Whereas the benefits come from the discipline and dedication to show up and to practice free of expectation and see what happens.
As my student I referred to at the beginning of this column has shown us all, show up to class, breath, mov and listen, and we can all practice yoga.
The practice of yoga is to live our lives and want to take up the challenge to find our health and happiness.
Is it time to unroll your mat and begin?
Erica Mueller is a registered yoga therapist and owner of Bikram Yoga Westbank, 250-707-1818.