A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Posts tagged ‘benefits of yoga’

Let the asana do the work for you

Imbued with the culture of doing, achieving, and pushing past the barrier, we end up on our yoga mats living the “no pain no gain” motto. Yet the mat is the one place where we can begin to learn that gain is not related to pain. Never. Not at all.

Along with the multifold (other) benefits of yoga, a double whammy of a benefit is, that, with regular practice, the asana does the work for you. All we need to do, with regular diligence, is to practice each asana to the point that our body allows us for that moment in time. Regularly, with patience, and correctness of posture. Did I mention diligence?

My early years of learning yoga under stringent circumstances, and long years of training in Indian Classical dancing, led me to an arrogant assumption, that, when I chose to learn again, I would be able to touch my toes. Easy. There. What did I say? I could do it.

Supported uttanasana

A chair does the trick as well.

The triumphant surge in my belly was short lived. My spine had to curve, and my shoulders had to stoop, in the exact ways that my book warned me not to, in my effort to prove to the most important person in the world, me, that I still had it in me. Today, I am not quite sure, what it was that was “in me”. I caught myself mirrored in the French window looking most inflexible and tortured. Red with mortification, and sweaty with humiliation, I turned away from that sight and reached for the blocks. I felt an unfamiliar sense of humility, coupled with a reluctant conviction that B. K. S. Iyengar must have known what he was writing about. I turned the blocks to their longest height, straightened, rooted my feet as evenly as possible, straightened my legs, raised my arms up, … you know the deal. When I then sneaked a look at the book, and back to my reflection, I realised I had to straighten my legs to a ninety degree angle from the floor, and soon I was able to breathe in a regular flow. Over a period of diligent, regular, time, I was able to lower the height of the block.

When I finally found a teacher I could adore, she gently pried the block away, and lo and behold, I was in my first, unsupported Uttanasana, since my childhood. I suddenly realised at that moment, that I had not put in an ounce of extra effort, ever, since that first time. Slowly, gradually, imperceptibly, over time, the muscles, legs, shoulders and spine had learnt to do whatever was necessary. Surely, and confidently, each time I practised, the asana had spoken to my body, and the two together had got my Uttanasana into place. As I proceeded through that lesson, I noticed the progress in each asana I had practised. Here was yoga. Here was a journey!

I am indebted to Yoga Adam for the title.

Image credit: http://dev.drfranklipman.com/uttanasana/

The Last Ten Minutes. Crucial.

Hello! Dear person, who stops during the fourth quarter of a yoga class, rolls up the mat and hot foots it out of the class, because you don’t have time to finish the class! Do you ever stop to think of what you could have missed? I am not talking about the twists, back bends and wind down postures that the rest of the class went through after you left, but the absolute last posture, the pose of the corpse, that you just skipped. Would you like to dwell on why you really, absolutely, shouldn’t have done that?

As a very concerned classmate, may I suggest, that if you are in a hurry, if you have an appointment you cannot avoid or postpone, and thus need to skip part of the yoga session, stop five to ten minutes before you need to leave, and drop down dead? Seriously. Just do five to ten minutes of savasana, and then leave. I promise you, you will be doing yourself a huge favour.

Savasana relaxes your body and after the tension of the various poses after the stretching, twisting, balancing, weight bearing you have jus gone through. A yoga practice session requires physical exertion, mental focus, exercise of will as well as immense concentration. Savasana creates a bridge from such intense concentration to the rest of your day. Even if you are doing a late evening session, you do need to benefit from savasana before you get up, wash up and go to bed. Just as your day will be much more enjoyable and productive if you do incorporate savasana, so will your sleep be much more, wel,l sleep, as well.

When correctly practised, savasana also balances out the mind and body after the intensity of the practice, eases the self into mindfulness and experience of an internal reality, that carries itself into the wakefulness and activity of the rest of the day. Savasana is, as far as I know the only asana that can be practised on its own, say, if you do not have time for a full practise. With all other asanas, a follow up with savasana is indicated.

Here is a discourse on the philosophy of savasana.too tired for savasana

Here is a practical guide to savasana.

Please consider!

Namaste.

image credit: http://muselan.typepad.com/studieswithlaura/savasana/

Peek a boo

japan_volcano1So, what are the non physical, not so immediate benefits of yoga? We hear a lot about yoga being “much more” than simple stretching and strengthening exercises. Authors and gurus discourse in length about the eight limbs of yoga practice, about the union of mind, body and spirit. There is much discussion about the chakras, and the other esoteric results from regular, disciplined and long term practice of yoga. It can get a little frightening, there is so much to understand, and so much seems to be that blink of an eye away from comprehension. It can be overwhelming, and lead one to feel that one will probably never, ever, quite “get it”.

There is good news. The esoteric results of yoga just seep in unheralded, and stay on to become part of oneself unrecognised. One need not understand a single couplet of Patanjali in order to realise that one has become a little more in tune with oneself. That a part of oneself that one never believed possible has come to the forefront.

I can only speak from personal experience. I am still a novice in the practice of yoga, and I have more to learn than I can imagine about all aspects of yoga, yet I do see a difference in my reality. I cannot say I have become a better person, yet I have certainly become more aware.

Here is a peek. Those who believe that I am a calm person have no idea about the turbulence I have within me – the shortness of temper, the doubts, the cynicism. Yet, they are right. I still have my quicksilver temper, but I am more in control of it. When I say that it seems that I somehow work on myself, exercise self control and make myself become less angry. What I think happens is this. I get very angry. VERY ANGRY. Then, even as I burst out in a volcanic mess, I notice how angry I am. Very soon after that, I find I cannot maintain that level of excitement anymore. The cause for the anger is still here, my sentiments about the situation are still valid, and yet….. that strong feeling subsides, and I am in a much better place to present my case, or walk away, as required for desired results. Effortless shifting of gear.

volcanic plainNow that is a cool thing, is it not?

PS: There are people who do know how temperamental I am, as well 😛

Image credit: volcano: http://totallycoolpix.com/2011/01/the-shinmoedake-volcanic-eruption/

volcanic plain: http://home.iprimus.com.au/foo7/volcmap.html

Too Flexible…?

“I am too flexible to do yoga”. I must admit, this comment threw me. I was used to hearing “I am too inflexible to do yoga”, and the answer to that just rolls off the tongue, “The practice of yoga makes one more flexible, one does not have to start by being flexible.” I remember that I had stared at the commenter openmouthed, my mind in a whirl at the unexpected point of view. She is very flexible, and can contort her body into many different positions, and hence believed that doing yoga would not benefit her, as she would not get “more” flexible.

I have often thought about her comment since I heard it, and I can see where she is coming from. I have often noticed a tendency in (some) teachers, (many) students and practitioners to try and push past boundaries and set up a challenge to go beyond current capabilities. I believe there is really no need to “push”, but let us not digress in that direction.

There seems to be a commonly held belief that if one can do a pose/asana without straining, one cannot be getting any benefit from it. If it is not a challenge, then one needs to find a variation that is. This probably stems from the belief of “no pain, no gain” that seems to resonate with everyone. Even I, though I know that even doing a few simple asanas every day, with discipline and accuracy is good enough, tend to book myself into classes that I find “more challenging” because I want to “progress” on my yoga journey.

One does not practice asanas, in order just to become more flexible, or stronger, or even just to improve general or specific health issues, though they are all great results as well. The scientifically measurable health benefits are only part of the story, after all. The experiential results are personal, often indefinable, and always multifaceted. Whether one just automatically does the posture perfectly or trains for a long time to get there, the health benefits derive from the posture itself not the difficulty of attaining it. Neither is it necessary to have to push oneself in anyway in order to derive the benefits of an asana. Very simple postures, like Tadasana, which are relatively easy to “master”, have numerous health benefits, just the same as the harder ( for some) to master: postures like Suptavirasana or Grabhasana. The mental benefits, which are less measurable scientifically are where the story begins to expand, and once what I like to think of as the benefits of the soul, kick in, are when the extended yogi life begins.

One begins to experience the results at the physical level almost immediately one starts learning yoga asanas. (Disclaimer: an once a week practice will take a long time to show persistent or consistent results. A very long time.)Through discipline, dedication and regularity, multiple rewards show up, wherever your body is on the flexibility, or strength scale. So, one is always in a good state to start, or continue yoga.

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