It's something I have been contemplating about for a while. Yoga as a lifestyle. Not just for a stretch session in between cardio workouts but really immersing myself into this ancient practice to get a slice of all the hyped up benefits it offers. My experience has been somewhere in the middle of someone who can't say they've never done it but can neither carry a conversation about it other than 'it's good for you'.
Last week, I made the leap and signed up at the nearest CorePower Yoga.
Three sessions later, I am here wondering why I didn't do it years ago. No, I really went deep into thinking why not. That's how this blog post was conceived.
One of the oldest books in the world of human history, one dating back to 8 to 10 thousand years, is Rigveda, a sacred compilation of Vedic texts ( Veda meaning knowledge). Among cosmology, metaphysics, philosophies about the origins of the universe, yoga is a part of this literature. Not surprising that the practice of yoga was confined to the royal and scholarly class during the middle ages, deemed 'too good to share' with the general public. It's as mainstream as it gets nowadays, studios popping up here and there, sights of people walking with rolled up mats tucked into their armpits becoming more frequent.
So, should you grab a mat and join in? Why? Why not?
The whys are pretty obvious, I think. There are 650 skeletal muscles in the human body. We have more muscles in general but these are the group we can voluntarily control, powerhouses that make movement possible by attaching themselves to our skeletal frames. Anyone who's ever held a good stretch until it 'hurts' knows that strength, good posture, agility and a toned physique all come as a reward for consistency. Anyone who's ever received a good massage knows our muscles reward attention with a flow of addictive endorphins or 'feel good hormones'. Anyone who has ever closed their eyes in prayer and sat in silence away from the constant chatter of the world outside and inside the mind knows the healing power of meditation.
Awareness of our posture to avoid the unconscious slouching most of us are guilty of relieves unnecessary and in time dangerous strain on our backs. Awareness of our muscles, tendons and joints brings about the wonder and awe of this immaculate machine our souls embody, helping us detect and heal pain. Awareness of our thoughts helps us not to identify with them but rather let them rise and settle. Therefore reducing stressful thought habits that, if left to fester become debilitating mental illness or make us unpleasant humans to those around us. Awareness of our oneness with the rest of creation helps us heal the divisive ego that brings about separatism and down the line causes suffrage, violence and war. Awareness of our true nature to find happiness in stillness helps us get a much needed break from "fast", "more" and "now". Awareness leads up to mindful living. Yoga is awareness in practice.
Yes! It also increases blood flow and heart rate therefore making the easy zipping-up of your favorite pair of jeans a reality. Of course, you also got to go easy on those fries.
You already knew all that?
So, why not?
The why not's are as important as the why's. Those reasons that keep us away from Yoga and a list of other practices that could change our lives for the better need our mindful attention. We ought to uncover them and debunk myths, face and defeat fears whenever necessary.
Let's put the usual suspects aside but not before we quickly address them first. Time and resources for instance.
Most people lead extremely busy lives. I personally have long opted out of the 9-5 Monday-Friday job pool because I haven't found one that won't mean making enemies with Mondays while worshiping Fridays and also because I, thankfully, have the luxury to choose otherwise. In no way can I be the judge of what people should and should not do with the little free time their regular jobs leave behind for them to use meticulously. Nevertheless, I am a believer in the power of will and our ability to make time for whatever we deem important to accommodate outside a regular work schedule. Netflix much?
Neither can I say your budget leaves room for a Black Tag Membership at CorePower. That isn't up for debate. I could include links to free online classes too, but what if you don't have regular access to worthy internet? (In which case I am flattered you are reading my blog)
Maybe you are a man and you assume it's not for you. I don't really understand that. If you read through that paragraph above where I probably overused the word 'awareness' and you related, your gender is just another excuse why you have no idea what an 'upward facing dog' is. We're talking about Yoga here, not a mammogram.
Personally, it was laziness that kept me from learning about and practicing Yoga. Laziness merged with procrastination and years of depressive episodes, misdirected focus that kept me glued to my couch. Another heavy chain around these little feet of a beginner Yogi was the myth that practicing Yoga would mean I was a follower of a 'strange' religion.
To most people I know, THAT'S the mental block, Yoga being a religious practice. That notion will not be completely untrue. People who follow Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism practice yoga and meditation as a ritual to ground themselves in the mindful knowing of what they consider the essence of God as it relates to themselves, others and the universe as a whole. True.
Yoga is also a tradition that surpasses religious denominations.
There are a few other acts one can think of that are not exclusively done as a result of the belief-in or worship-of a supernatural controlling power which is how Webster's defines religion. Avoiding pork or meat as a whole is a decision someone could make to improve their health with no connection to scriptures rooted in faith. Fasting is another example, with no one religious entity claiming ownership of it. So, if it is good for your body, mind and spirit, why aren't we promoting yoga in our churches, synagogues and Mosques?
I don't aim to answer that question but rather let you ponder it yourselves. Really, I am only a beginner who has to keep the instructor within sight at all times to know what to do. This is about being ok to begin, to begin with.
Hopefully, in searching for your own answers, you will find a way to reap the benefits of yoga while staying true to ideas that make up your belief system.
One of my favorite series on OWN (TV network owned by Oprah Winfrey) is 'Black Love' where married couple bare it all to share the good, bad and ugly truths about marriage. Ashley, who is a black woman, said something profound about how she embraced an interracial relationship with her then boyfriend, now husband Chea, who is Asian. She had a vision decades in the making, so detailed about her marrying a black man and naturally struggled to let that go. What she said about why and how this letting go happened has become one of my favorite statements, EVER.
After lovingly listing all the qualities Chea possessed, she concluded;
“I can’t pass up this good soul because it’s not packaged the way I thought it would be.”
Point is, you got it, we shouldn't miss out on all that yoga offers because It isn't a tradition or ritual our particular denomination preaches. I found it to be much more than that.
For me, this whole walking up tall and practicing how to be a more aware individual is giving me joy. I have no plans to ever stop flexing as I take deep breaths and free my mind. So, why wouldn't you?
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