Yoga is an important part of my daily schedule. I practice at three different locations (four if I include my college-daughter’s empty bedroom) and am definitely “out of sorts” if I miss my “yoga-time.” I am somewhat fanatical about exercise; I love hiking, trail running, biking, rowing, strength training, group exercise, the entire gamut. I enjoy the sweat, the fatigue, the mental high, the muscle burn and the feeling of accomplishment upon completion. During all of those workouts, my mind always wanders to tasks, goals, and memories and often times, work. Enter yoga. Yoga is the only time of the day that it is “all about me”.
The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yoke, join or unite. Through the practice of yoga, the mind, body and soul are integrated to achieve a happy balance. There are various paths of Yoga, each with a different practice focus: knowledge and wisdom, devotion, love and emotion, mindfulness and service to others, and cultivating one’s energy through breath and movement. Hatha Yoga is the general term that refers to yoga practice that integrates physical postures and movements with breath. There are over a hundred schools, or styles, of yoga, each with differing philosophies on postures and movement, but all maintaining attention to breath and energy. I do not believe that there is a “one size fits all” style of yoga, but I do believe that there is a style of yoga for everyone. My personal practice varies day by day and week by week. Most often I enjoy a vinyasa style, a class that incorporates smooth flowing transitions from one posture into another. I also enjoy Bikraim yoga that incorporates the same 26 postures in the same sequence every class over a 90 minute time period in a room heated to 105 degrees. And there are days when a Restorative Yoga is what I need the most! Restorative classes use props such as blocks, blankets and bolsters to provide students with a passive manner to achieve the benefits of a pose, ultimately creating physical, mental and emotional relaxation.
Regardless of yoga style, the practice allows me time to focus inwardly. Actually it forces me to focus on myself. Attention to breath is necessary when holding postures or moving fluidly from a lunge to high pushup to up-dog. The mind cannot possibly wander if the focus is on breath. Breathing is an automatic function in our bodies. When we increase our movement intensity our breath increases to provide needed oxygen to our muscles. Using a smooth and relaxed awareness of inhalation and exhalation prevent the mind from wandering to anything other than the body-breath connection. Yoga provides me with strength and flexibility of body, and more importantly, my mind. I am filled with complete peace after every yoga practice. It is any wonder that I make yoga a part of my every day?