Sunday, August 28, 2016

Discipline, Connection, and Unity through Yoga

In this edition of BWG: a look at Yoga for those of us who can't touch our head to our heel, stand on one foot for the weekend, or allow ourselves to be viewed from behind wearing spandex. May it bless you!

There's no question that Yoga can be beautiful to look at. But it can also be downright intimidating for those of us who are more meaty than bendy. Many people are put off by the impossible poses that long-time practitioners can accomplish and hold. Others are concerned that practicing Yoga may lead to an embrace of religious traditions that contradict their own. And some of us are just afraid we're going to look stupid, clumsy, and fat. Fortunately, Yoga is much more forgiving than we are. Here are some ways you might begin to integrate Yoga into your own wellness practice.

In The 10 Best Yoga Poses for Inflexible People, Christina Stanley shows you how you can begin without handstands, contortions, or investing in a closet full of clothing and gear. She offers some simple precepts before getting started:
1. You should always be able to breathe evenly, so find your edge but don’t go past it! Allow your body to open up and adjust over the space of about five or six breaths in each pose. 
2. Keep your core muscles active but not to the point of holding your breath.
3. Keep a neutral spine; no “swayback donkeys” or sunken chests.
4. Twisting happens at the waist, not at the shoulders.
5. When bending forward, hinge from the hips, not the middle of your back.

The benefits of Yoga extend beyond limber muscles and flexible joints. Gary Craftsow's column entitled Yoga for Depression: An Integrated Practice unpacks some of the ancient principles that make Yoga such an effective way to manage mood and emotional well being. Crafstow offers some encouraging insights into the ways that Yoga practice can help counteract the distortions that depression can cause to our thinking:
Being depressed can often radically alter the way you act toward yourself and others. So it’s not unusual to lose interest in daily activities (the behavior sphere)—and stop taking care of yourself physically or wall yourself off from friends and social obligations. Cultivating determination, strengthening the will, and setting and activating intention are the cornerstones of yoga practice and can help you overcome habits and dysfunctional behaviors that can paralyze you and keep you depressed. 

"Namasté, y'all."
One of the challenges of starting a new discipline can be the language. Whether you are learning to sail a yacht, bake cornbread, or repair torn bluejeans, peculiar language and jargon tends to develop around that activity and newcomers can find it pretty off-putting. in her comforting glossary, The Ultimate guide to Yoga Lingo, Kelly Fitzpatrick introduces us to some of the terms you are most likely to hear at your first yoga class.

One of the most beautiful words in the Yoga world is the traditional greeting, "Namaste."  It isn't easy to translate, but The Compassionate Gardner offers a lovely examination of the many layers of meaning in this ancient acknowledgement of the shared goodness in all of creation.