Movement as Medicine

Much of our day to day activities forces us to be in sedentary enclosures, say a desk or a car, which greatly inhibits the movement of our bodies. As human beings who have evolved from a physically active, hunting and gathering existence, it is challenging for the mind and body to adapt to the dramatic changes of modern living.

 

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Consent Cards at Live Yoga

Live Yoga wants you to feel comfortable and supported in your practice. Some students enjoy a hands-on adjustment while others prefer a non-touch approach, and for a few, that can change depending on how they feel in the moment. With that in mind, we are introducing Consent Cards to every class.

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Sweet and Savory Chickpea Curry

Fall is a dry, cool, and crisp season and in Ayurveda the Vata dosha predominates and can lead to some imbalance in our health.  To counteract the dry and cool elements foods that are warming, slightly sweet, and full of nourishing and grounding ingredients are helpful to stay healthy during the autumn. 

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Cleansing Spring Kitchari

Kitchari of Amazement

Kitchari is a traditional indian soup or stew made with aromatic digestive herbs, ginger, sprouted mung beans, and rice.  Soups and stews are easily digested so enjoying this meal in the spring where there is much congestion can ensue the digestive system isn't burdened by heavy and wet foods.  For a simple cleanse to give your digestion a break enjoy kitchari twice a day for 2-3 days.  This will ensure there is no undigested food clogging the digestive tract that will most likely promote congestion, weak digestion, and could potentially turn into a spring cold.  Kitchari can also be a nice light fresh dinner to share with friends and family.

 

            So bear with me as I don’t ever measure.  So each batch of kitchari is different!!

  • Assorted spices (fennel, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, ground tumeric, cumin seed, black/yellow mustard seed, and salt to taste)
  • 3 tbs minced ginger
  • ¼ cup ginger juice
  • 2 large leeks
  • Any seasonal greens available
  • a bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups germinated organic mung beans
  • 4 cups femented organic brown rice
  • ½ cup ghee (clarified butter) or substitute Coconut oil
  • optional can of organic coconut milk for creamy result
  • 10 cups of love

To prepare the beans and rice: Germinating the mung beans takes 2 days.  Soak mung beans in water and leave on counter rinse them in cold water daily.   They will show signs of sprouting after 1-2 days.  Fermenting the rice only takes 24 hours.  Soak rice in water overnight, then rinse and let sit on your counter covered with a towel or cheese cloth so the air get to it.  Rinse well before using.  This process will neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors increasing vitamin content, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption during germination.  In simple terms soaking, germinating, and sprouting grains and legumes make them easy to digest!

To cook the Kitchari: First heat the ghee or coconut oil in large stock pot.   Add in assorted spices (ground in mortar and pestle except mustard seeds) and toast until mustard seeds start to pop.  Add in minced ginger, then chopped leek.  Simmer until leeks are tender.   Add rice and mung (rinse well) with 8-10 cups of water.   More water for soupier kitchari, less for a thick kitchari.  Simmer until rice and mung are tender or your desired consistency.  At this point for a creamy variation you could add a can of organic coconut milk.  Lastly add in ginger juice (this will make the whole thing incredibly nice on you digestion).  For a creamier/full fat version simply add more ghee/and or a can of coconut milk while cooking.

Be sure to prepare in a mindful loving way.  So the resulting food will be nourishing to whomever receives it.  You can garnish with some fresh cilantro, or any seasonal greens available.  The heat of the hot kitchari will steam the greens to a digestible state (raw greens are hard to digest)

Peace and Love

Patanjali in a Nutshell - Sutra 1:2

Sutra 1:2

                                   

Complete mastery over the modifications of the mind is called Yoga

Pandit  Rajmani  Tigunait  and  Edwin  Bryant

 

Yoga is the cessation of the movements of consciousness

Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – BKS Iyengar

 

Yoga happens in the resolution of consciousness

Threads of Yoga – Matthew Remski

 

In the second sutra Patanjali explains what yoga could be (this is open to debate).  To stop our thinking mind or any movements or fluctuations of consciousness.  I agree that it is enjoyable to have an experience free from thought or a clear calm mind but consider that as a permanent state.  If this is the goal of yoga would our lives benefit by being in a state of thoughtlessness? If we emancipate ourselves from thoughts and ascend to the state of "yoga" how will our family feel, how will we make a living and work? Would we still be part of society? 

 

I think it is very important to consider what yoga means to us.  Being aware of our thoughts is a great tool to bring more balance into our life.  As we practice stilling the mind often mental habits, influences, and life experiences come up and inhibit yoga.  This is when the real yoga begins as we shift our lifestyle and habits to support calmness, balance, stillness, and of course, yoga.  The practice irons out the wrinkles of habit, influences, and mental turbulence or at least makes us aware of these factors that draw are attention away from deeper states of focus, mindfulness, or connection. 

 

My thoughts on permanence are influenced by nature.  There is life and death and nothing escapes this cycle.  In the natural world there is no permanence as things come and go. We cannot be in a constant state of inhalation as the exhalation must come to rid the lungs of carbon dioxide.  So to I feel that reaching a permanent state of yoga is impossible.  In the pages to come, Patanjali lays out practices and revelations on how to calm the mind and body and reach states of yoga but then we come down, back to our life, our world.  The practice is there for us to find yoga but not to hold it.  In ancient times sages and ascetics (or yogi's) would renounce life duties to pursue states of yoga (if any succeeded?).  Even in todays world I can't find proof that any practitioners have reached permanent states of enlightenment or yogic consciousness through yoga practice.  So what if experiencing glimpses of the states of yoga help us to wake up to the situations in our lives.  Can stilling the fluctuations of the mind bring clarity and intimacy with our world? Is it possible to have an open understanding of what yoga is?

Patanjali in a Nutshell - Sutra 1:1

Sutra 1:1

 

Then comes the right to undertake the practice of yoga

Pandit  Rajmani  Tigunait  and  Edwin  Bryant

 

With prayers for divine blessings, now begins an exposition into the sacred art of yoga

Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – BKS Iyengar

 

We all inquire into yoga

Threads of Yoga – Matthew Remski

 

I feel that every human on the planet at some point in there life questions what consciousness is and try to understand how to calm the mind to catch a glimpse of what is happening on a deeper level.  We all crave a connection to the inner quietude.

 

In the first sutra Patanjali immediately opens the practice to anyone who wishes to experience their consciousness.  Regardless of caste, religion, or upbringing we are intrigued to delve into the practice of yoga.  This first line instantly sparks curiosity into the reader.  What is Yoga? Why should I practice? Is it my right to inquire further into my state of mind?

 

I feel comforted by the potential of the pages to come that will bring an inquiry or investigation into the deeper parts of myself, my community, and my life.  Yoga has many meaning and those meanings will change as I go through life but committing to this inquiry of yoga I will always have new findings to share. 

 

Check back soon as I will reflect on the Sutras of Patanjali.

 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali……in a nutshell.

The yoga sutras of Patanjali are a rich and contemplative arrangement of 196 sutras (aphorism) that challenge the reader to consider his/her own consciousness and understanding of what makes up reality.

 

I’m no expert on the Yoga Sutras but am drawn with intrigue towards the teachings as they are open to interpretation.  I’ve decided to share my reflections on the sutras in a very accessible and open presentation.  I hope everyone becomes curious to discuss and comment on what these sutra bring up in their understanding and experience.

 

Was Patanjali a magical sage? A group of philosophers? Half snake have man (really!)? Nobody really knows but the sutras are possibly as old as 400 CE (wiki). I’ve read that philosophers and authors in those times were rewarded and celebrated for removing even one syllable.  So the sutras are dense with meaning.  Sutras were traditionally chanted. A lot!  In order for the student to memorize each one and meditate upon their meaning.  As I have just began to delve into the yoga sutras of Patanjali I’m sure my understanding will change over time as I consider the teachings. I hope you will join my journey!

 

Patanjali’s yoga sutras make up the foundation of modern yoga practice and include the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga which include; ethics (relations to others or yama), relations to oneself, posture (asana), freedom of breath (pranayama), freedom of the senses, focus, contemplation, and integration (the last 3 make up meditative practices).  The sutras also touch on the patterned tensions of conscious and unconscious life with a goal of possibly unbinding oneself from these happenings.  As there are many translations there comes many understandings of what Patanjali was recommending.  There is no central authority on what the sutras really mean as they are basically void of an author.  I believe the meaning of each sutra is relative to the reader and the culture that she/he is part of.  How can we let ancient teachings benefit our modern lives?

 

This will be a long journey dissecting each sutra (potentially skipping a few).  The beauty of philosophy is the teachings are open to contemplate.  The practices there to experience.  It is up to us to give them meaning.

Healing Back Pain Through Yoga Part 3

In my last edition of my blog on Healing Back Pain through yoga I will finally get to the physical; the body, the muscles, and the yoga poses. Before that I would like to reiterate how important our lifestyle, environment, and how we deal with emotions and mental stress are to our wellbeing.  It is difficult to practice yoga poses mindfully if the rest of your life is in turmoil.  In the following, I’ll try to capture the essence of physical yoga practice as a healing modality.

 

Practicing Yoga Asana (postures)

 

            My first recommendation is to find good quality instruction with a teacher who will support, encourage, and facilitate how to practice yoga postures in a beneficial way. This implies individual attention to your body and back pain conditions.  If you have minimal experience in practicing yoga it is especially important to practice the poses with good alignment and also attention from an experienced teacher – someone who will demonstrate how to stay safe during your practice.  As a teacher observes your body in yoga poses she/he can make recommendations on how to adapt the poses to suit the uniqueness of your body in comparison to other students.  Working 1 on 1 in private yoga classes is even better when starting out. This will assist you to develop a home yoga practice to heal your back.  The relationship between teacher and student should always be supportive to the growth, wellbeing, and most importantly, the independence of the student.  It takes time to understand which poses will relieve your back pain but the teacher can ensure you aren’t practicing in a way that worsens any symptoms you may experience.  Yoga practice also takes time to master each pose and to progress your understanding of how the body functions in the pose.

 

            Once you have learned some poses that bring relief from back pain you need to do them regularly.  This is the independence that the yoga teachers impart to you, the knowledge of how to develop a home yoga practice.  When the body is in pain and we do nothing, there is no change.  When we find yoga poses that reduce or relieve pain, we must experience this relief over and over and over again for a change to take place.  For a new pattern or habit to develop in our body there must be repetition, especially if you have experienced chronic pain cycles.  A home yoga practice is empowering to the students who learn to free themselves from pain! 

 

I’ll shed light on how I began to end my chronic back pain.  As a machinist and engineer I spent long shifts hunched over computers and metal working machines working on high stress projects.  My posture and work environment promoted this chronic pain even after work, while I was relaxing at home.  Practicing yoga, I noticed that a simple spinal stretch with my hands on the wall would temporarily relieve my back pain. It then became my duty that, whenever my pain cycle began, I would end it then and there by taking 30 seconds to practice spinal stretch (wall dog or ardha uttanasana).  I would do this during lunch, while shopping, on the trunk of my car, while skiing or halfway through a movie.  It worked! I broke the spell of what I thought would be a never-ending pain cycle and, more importantly, it happened of my own free will.  Yoga practice will not heal your back by taking one class a week.  It needs to happen on a daily basis so new postural habits are engrained in our cells, our mind, and our existence.

 

Drop any idea you have of what your yoga practice should be.  The mind is a funny thing. It often attaches itself to the idea that doing more, stretching more, or radically changing ourselves will bring about a wellness that will forever end our troubles.  I do feel that we need a positive outlook but, if positivity keeps our mind contemplating what we think our practice should be, it distracts us from actually being in our bodies while practicing. Expecting our yoga practice to magically heal us overnight might also bring disappointment, as there is rarely such instant gratification.  Yoga takes time, care, and patience.  Any movement, stretching, or activity done in good alignment will bring about wellbeing eventually. Yoga practice hones our awareness to observe our body during each pose and during each action executed.  Throughout life we will experience many physical circumstances that will require us to drastically change our approach to yoga practice.  Not only does this diversify our skills as yoga practitioners but helps us break down habits and attachments to certain postural habits, exercises, and way of being.  A yogi is nor just physically flexible but also mentally flexible.

 

            All of this practice keeps us receptive.  We feel our muscles, bones, and skin with great intimacy and even catch glimpses of the inner happenings of the body including the nerves, breath, and energy. The study of the self gives us the knowledge to intuitively heal ourselves. Once we have an understanding of how to feel good in our body that becomes our yoga practice, the maintenance of a light, subtle, and receptive body and mind.

 

My final thoughts about healing back pain with yoga practice are to get some support, practice with others, make new friends and most importantly be nice to your self.  It is possible to physically heal our body all on our own yet the journey is enriched when you share it with others.  Connecting with others, sharing conversation, thoughts, and emotions heals us on a much deeper level as it brings a deep satisfaction to our lives. We all crave friendship and you can find it very easily at any local yoga studio.   There are many seekers on the path to bring more balance to their lives. When you learn to be kind to others you learn to be kind to yourself.  This connection to community and others with similar struggles and goals will encourage and support wellbeing more that words can describe.  I hope you have enjoyed these reflections and have found a new curiosity towards your own body and mind.

 

 

Healing Back Pain Through Yoga Part 2

            In this blog I’d like to shed light on how our emotions, whether current, present or deeply rooted within us, can have a major impact on our nervous system, heartrate, mental state, and physical state.  Also I’ll touch on how external factors in our environment can also influence us.  If you haven’t read the previous blogs in my Back Pain series click HERE.

 

The Emotions and our Environment:

            Emotions are very powerful energies that have an equally powerful influence on our body, mind, nervous system, and life.   Consider some emotional responses you would have for the following situations: losing a loved one, a threat to your job security over a deadline, not being able to save money or buy a house, your boyfriend dumps you (of girlfriend), almost getting into a car accident, falling and breaking a leg, winning the lottery, accomplishing a long time goal.  Take a moment to contemplate these scenarios and how your whole body would respond to each.  For me the responses for each situation would be along the lines of the following; deep remorse and sadness, stress and anxiety, depression, sadness and loneliness, adrenaline, shock, outright joy and happiness, pride and satisfaction.  We are human and have instinctual and cellular responses for the situations we encounter in life.  Our nervous system, the endocrine system, and adrenal glands provide the body with different hormones, chemicals, tensions, relaxations and reverberations that are directly relative to what situation or emotion the body may encounter.  It is normal to cry, have a bout of anxiety, feel sad, feel depressed on a rainy day, and experience raging anger just like it is normal to laugh, play, feel uplifted and experience joy and happiness.  It is when we are in a constant state of one emotion that these energies can have a negative influence on the mind and body.  In fact muscular tensions can form in our body from what we are feeling.  We even use language that supports our experiences like “that guy is a pain in the neck”, “taxes are a pain in the butt”, “A lump in my throat”, “butterflies in my stomach”-- do any of these sound familiar?

 

Anxiety, for instance, is a commonplace emotion felt by many people I know (myself included).  When we are anxious there is a surplus of uprising energies to the mind, we sweat, panic, think too much, and can’t settle down.  With long-term anxiety the body and mind have a really hard time relaxing or feeling rooted and grounded, and the nervous system is overworked dealing with all the surplus of excitement!  This longtime stress for me ends up tightening my jaw, neck, shoulders and upper back, finally culminating in a full on backache that won’t be ignored. I’m getting anxious just writing this! But I have been experimenting with the understanding that by simply noticing these sensations there is a choice we have when observing our state of being.  We can ignore it, bottle it up and mask it with some temporary fix or distraction, or we can take time every day to spend relaxing, meditating, walking in nature, doing yoga poses or whatever it is that slows us down for the mind to become more clear, the nerves to settle, the upward rising anxiousness to ground itself into comfort. This work helps us to make good choices.  We can’t change the body’s natural response to emotions; they are engrained in our genes and cells.  We can begin to contemplate the circumstances from which these emotions arise and make it our yoga practice to skillfully counterbalance the negative responses that stress our bodies and minds. 

 

            The idea of separation brings me to talk about environmental influences. Feeling like a separate entity from the world is built in to the story of the ascent of humanity and our attachment to ego and the self.  The modern day man has conquered nature, solved the mysteries of the planet and stars, cured most disease through science, and has surpassed the need to rely on others.  As an individual we are expected to make a living, own our own house, own a car, consume mass amounts of stuff, and be self-reliant.  It is easy to feel completely segregated and uninfluenced from our neighbors and colleagues, nature, or climate change and global struggles. Deep down I think everyone knows we are connected on very subtle levels to everything.  When we make a bad dietary choice we live and feel that.  When we argue with someone close it is an emotional experience.  When a refugee child washes ashore in a distant country on the news our hearts flutter with remorse. We are unarguably connected to the world in which we live. Living in a toxic or negative environment brings dissatisfaction to our lives.  As we saw how the emotions can spur tensions and responses in the body and mind, so too does our environment.  Consider having really poor conditions in your workplace.  Day in and day out you go to a job you hate, where you are treated unfairly yet are trapped by the need to pay bills, feed yourself, and keep shelter for yourself and family.  Clearly this environment is stressful and would bring a longing for a better job and more time to nurture ourselves.  Don’t quit your job because of yoga, but maybe let your job be your yoga by connecting more with your employer and voice a need for change.  If your wellbeing is in a conflict with work then a shift must take place.  The ecosystem we are part of includes our friends, hobbies, diet, work, home and all factors of our lifestyle. Example of actions that could lead to back pain are:  drinking too much, overeating, lack of exercise, negative company, tension with a loved one, not getting out for fresh air and nature and most other obvious choices that are unhealthy.  Through yoga we wake up to all parts of our life and have a choice in how we live.  I’m not recommending some kind of fairy tale life that doesn’t have its downsides but rather encouraging the need to live in an environment that is comforting, nurturing, and most importantly connects you to others, the food your eat, and mother nature that we are deeply connected to.

 

I hope my words are painting a picture of living your yoga practice.  Yoga is not just physical poses, yoga studio classes, $100 yoga pants, or the spiritual materialism that is trending in the wellness industry.  Your life is your yoga!

 

 

 

 

 

Healing Back Pain Through Yoga Part 1

In my second portion of the healing back pain through yoga articles I’d like to discuss how our mental state plays a role in healing back pain.  If you haven’t read the first blog and need to catch up click HERE.  It may seem along way from our back but there are many deep connections between the brain, mind, our consciousness, and the physically sensations we feel.

Our Mind:

            Our lives and our identity are made up of stories we have been taught or stories we have about ourselves. How often do we attach to stories of past injury, or bodily dysfunctions that may have come up in our lives?  By attaching to these stories are we inhibiting ourselves from healing and writing a new more positive narrative on the direction of our life?  These can be hard questions to ask but our metal outlook on physical wellbeing does have an impact on what we do and how we do it! I don’t want to advocate some new age mantra that you can materialize perfect health just by belief (I’ll leave that to Mr. Chopra) but attachment can leave one foot stuck in the mud of our once injured self.  For example, doctors told me I would never play hockey, go skiing, lift heavy things, or do any of the activities so dear to my heart ever again.  And, devastatingly, I was attached to this advice.  My mind held on to the idea I couldn’t do the things I love and this was a death sentence, my life was over, as I knew it. 

I had a high regard to medical professionals so why wouldn’t I listen to them! But once I started moving, breathing, stretching, and living my life again I quickly realized they were wrong. One night I braved the idea of skiing again (for the fear of god had been put into me that skiing would cripple my hopes of healing). Skiing actually loosened my muscles up and filled my lungs with crisp mountain air.  My whole body pulsed with life and it relieved my backache. I was alive again!   The list of don’t do’s that is offered to those suffering back pain rolls of the tongue so nicely. Don’t sleep on your stomach, don’t forward fold, don’t lift heavy things, don’t engage in vigorous activity, don’t don’t don’t.  This advice leaves us very limited in what we can do and might create phobia each time we have to tie our shoelaces (yup that was me!). Of course a sudden change in my mindset didn’t instantly fix my spinal health and back pain but it gave me confidence to progress daily to become healthy again in order to live the fullest life.  In my mind I become open to the idea of healing.

An injury is an event, it happens, then it is over and the body begins to heal.  Attaching to the idea that we are permanently broken and injured can drown any positive goals of healing ourselves, or alleviating a condition.  Through yoga practice we focus our mind on our body (through postures, breathing, and meditations) and bridge a connection that harmonizes the two into one (the yoking of yoga).  When the body moves, stretches, engages and relaxes, the mind is focused on these happenings and becomes still, aware and present.  When the mind quiets down we have a finer lens with which to consider our thoughts, habits, and the stories we tell about ourselves with less reaction.  A yoga practitioner truly wakes up to the choices and decisions they make that affect their wellbeing.  The heart of Yoga is not to harm ourselves (see Ahimsa), or others, so by being mentally present and awake we can decide for ourselves what choices, lifestyle, yoga postures, and mental outlook best supports our path to healing back pain.  The mind plays an important role in helping us develop a personal yoga practice!

 

That is part 1 of my blog on Healing Back Pain through Yoga and you may be surprised that I didn’t talk much about the physical yoga or tell you what to do.  I’m hoping to intrigue each of you, the reader, to look deep into yourselves and question the inner teacher that has a great wisdom around healing the body.  It’s You!

Healing Back Pain Through Yoga (Introduction)

            Everyone will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Whether it be chronic or debilitating pain, or simply some stiffness and soreness, back pain and discomfort is part of being human!  I’m sure we can all agree that back pain isn’t fun and drains us of energy and lowers our quality of life.  In this series of articles, I will articulate a few thoughts about how practicing yoga can alleviate and prevent current and future back pain.

 

            To start, we must understand what “yoga” is.  The word “yoga” can be defined as to yoke, union, integration or intimacy and it is a practice that entails becoming more conscious of reality.  Meaning we strive to yoke our mind, body, consciousness, relationships, and our environment.  Yoga is being awake and aware of all the wonderful connections that are present in our lives and in the world around us.  To practice yoga one must treat the body as a whole, and this frame of mind gives a different lens from which to approach healing ourselves and maintaining health.

 

            The current model of healing found in contemporary western society can be thought of as mechanical and scientific.  We all want to know why our back hurts and exactly what to do to fix it.  How can I take apart the parts of my body and reassemble them to work properly? The answers aren’t so simple when we consider the totality of our existence.  Many modalities and modern medicine relate to the body as mechanical and compartmentalize our symptoms to specific areas leading often to overly specific diagnoses.  I’m not saying that modern medicine, science, anatomy, and bio-mechanics aren’t miraculously amazing, it’s just usually the language and the need to pinpoint the exact location and factor for pain tends to be insanely specific and gives us a feeling of dysfunction and alienation. For instance, can you receive a “diagnosis” (stenosis between out 4th and 5th lumbar vertebra with a slight fusion of the sacroiliac joint) and still feel like a whole and integrated person?  I’m being facetious but honestly trying to dissect and understand ourselves with this level of detail takes us away from the big picture, the whole picture: the deeply integrated nature of our body, mind and spirit. The viewpoint of what a healthy body is has been reduced to the concept that our physical body was built, has parts that can be broken, and someone else can show us how to repair, reassemble, and fix things back to a mechanically perfect body.  There are some missing links in this outlook.

 

            I would like to share my back pain story to situate how I turned my pain story into a new narrative of change and healing.  When I was a 26 year old active, fit and strong young man I started experiencing debilitating back pain and sciatica.  I paid to have an MRI after numerous therapies garnered no results and found I had severe osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis near the sciatic nerve, and an extreme case of degeneration of the spinal disks (the cushions between the vertebrae).  Needless to say this was devastating news for me.  All of the top back pain specialists I saw suggested surgery after manipulations, steroids, nerve numbing concoctions, and cortisol injections repeatedly failed. None of these specialists spent more than 15 minute with me.  WAIT.  FIFTEEN MINUTES.  In our current system, it was a rarity to find someone with compassion, an open ear, or someone who will sit down and help me for more than 15 minutes.  Of course this is my experience but it is hard to get know someone in 15 minutes.  Every doctor, specialist and therapist I saw took a look at my MRI, but not the person in front of them: me.  There wasn’t any consideration of my quality of life, postural habits, diet, love life, family affairs, or what I do for fun.  They missed all of the contributing factors to back pain in my life like dissatisfaction with my workplace, anxiety, loneliness, heartbreak, depression, and extreme stress.  Every single specialist failed to see the entirety of me and who I am as a person, but rather focused on the symptom, the physical, the mechanical and how my broken pieces might be individually fixed. I came to an important realization: healing my back would be a process of healing myself. I decided to look at my whole life and being and was able to create a new story, and new narrative around my pain. Through a practice of yoga, I found a union within myself and connected to my inner capacity to heal body, mind and spirit.   Luckily the union I found through yoga helped me connect with myself before I was under the surgeon’s knife.

 

There are too many words and too many emotions to tell my whole story and thoughts about back pain in one blog post! Check back tomorrow for the next part where I discuss the role of the mind and the emotions in healing back pain.

 

Why Beginners Yoga is a great introduction to Yoga Practice

So you’ve decided to try yoga, but are a little worried and maybe skeptical about your first yoga class.  When beginning to practice yoga our usual concerns are: we aren’t fit enough; flexible enough; or strong enough to make it through our first yoga class.  This is pretty normal for anyone new to yoga especially if you google yoga and see your stream fill up with advanced poses, handstands and twenty something year old fit women.  This isn’t a very good reflection of what happens in most yoga classes and can create some speculation about what yoga practice really entails.  Yoga practice is an amazing tool to increase strength, balance, fitness, flexibility, and encourage wellbeing while also promoting stress reduction.  Practice is unique to the abilities of each student and complementary to supporting your lifestyle ensuring you can continue to do all of your activities and hobbies.

Here are some reasons you should take a beginners yoga course to help you start practicing yoga without the worry’s and intimidation that comes with being new to yoga.

Learn with other beginners!:

When you take a beginners yoga course you will learn with other students completely new to yoga.  There is something comforting and reassuring about practicing yoga with others that are learning and trying something new for the first time.  A friendly and encouraging environment is so important when learning.  Nobody feels centered out for not being able to perform a pose and the pace of class is slow to give time to comprehend how to move your body, feel things, and most importantly breathe.  There is opportunity to chuckle at difficulties and failures and celebrate all of your successful yoga poses together.  The bonding that happens when learning and practicing with a small group is great way to build friendships and community!

 

You will learn about your body:

A beginners yoga course is a slow paced class where there is opportunity to feel your body in the poses and be receptive to how you practice the pose.  You find a relationship between yourself and the poses. This relationship helps teach you what poses come naturally and what ones are difficult.  You will also learn that your body is completely unique to everyone else’s and therefore so to your yoga poses will differ from others. Yoga should feel good so contorting your body to fit into the pose isn’t the goal.  The yoga pose should fit your body. Learning about yourself and being comfortable in your own skin is the yolking that is yoga.

 

Small class sizes:

It is so reassuring when beginning a yoga practice to have a teacher’s guidance and observation to help be sure you are practicing the poses correctly. In beginners yoga the teacher is there to make your first experience of yoga enjoyable.  The teacher will observe you in the poses and help you to find what works for your body.  The teacher can help with suggestions of what poses would benefit you to practice regularly and advise not practicing poses that aren’t suitable for you. 

Learn the Basics:

There seems to be an infinite number of yoga poses nowadays some of which you will never have to worry about.  This is good as when a new student becomes familiar with the basic foundation of yoga practice the more advanced poses come easier.  Beginners yoga will cover the fundamental yoga poses that you will encounter in a drop-in class.  Each pose is broken down so the student can learn if they need props, or how to modify the pose to suit their body.  It is amazing to see how differently you might practice a pose compared to your neighbor.  Yoga isn’t a “one size fits all” practice and by learning the basic shapes, your practice will become unique.

Explore Different Styles of Yoga:

Beginners yoga will expose the new student to many different ways of practicing.  Sun Salutations are faster-paced movement following the breath, standing poses build strength and stability, restorative yoga relaxes the nervous system, and seated poses held for a length of time have a yin quality to them.  Once experienced, the new students can distinguish what practices might be the most beneficial for them to practice.  Someone who sits at a desk all day would often be invigorated and awakened by a faster moving class, while someone always on the go might calm down in a restorative class.  We acquire a yoga toolbox that can help balance our daily lives.

 

Feel the Benefits Right Away:

Even after your first class of moving, stretching, breathing, and relaxing you will notice the benefits and joy that come from yoga practice.  Yoga builds strength and power while at the same time opens and stretches stiff parts of the body.  This combination helps keep the body resilient and improves overall fitness. Some poses increase core strength while others do the opposite and allow the abdomen and organs to relax.  These oppositions encourage balance in the body.   The restorative and relaxing qualities of yoga let the entire nervous system unwind, significantly decreasing stress levels.  All the benefits associated with yoga practice will ensure you stay fit, healthy, and can pursue an active lifestyle.

Find Your Confidence:

After graduating the beginners yoga course you will have the confidence to go and try any class!  You will have a general understanding of basic yoga poses and know how keep within your body’s capabilities. You will have a personal responsibility of practicing in a way which keeps you curious, encourages growth, provides a challenge but maintains your health and wellness.  The confidence that comes with learning yoga might even have you practicing at home with your own inner teacher guiding you!

 

If you are still on the fence about trying yoga check out our other article about Beginners yoga practice HERE.  We encourage everyone to come and learn yoga if there are any questions or concerns please contact us at practice@liveyoga.ca

Our Beginners Yoga courses run regularly at the lovely Live Yoga that serves White Rock and South Surrey with the highest quality yoga classes.