I recently attended a yoga practice session where we focused on a series of ‘hip opening’ poses (yes, your hips store a lot of tension, especially after a grueling week at work).
Although I struggled through a lot of the poses, an hour later I felt more relaxed than I had coming into the practice after stretching almost every muscle imaginable –well not really imaginable because the way I felt the next day proved that the muscles are real and alive.
Yoga, refers to several physical and mental disciplines which originated in India. Yoga means “union” from the root yuj a Sanskrit word. Practicing yoga brings together the mind, body and spirit.
There are about six different forms of yoga, including raja yoga and hatha yoga. Raja yoga focuses on meditation and ethical perfection. Hatha yoga, the most commonly practiced form of yoga in the world outside the borders of Asia, focuses on a series of poses (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama).
Ha (Sun) tha (moon) yoga, unites the solar/energizing and lunar/relaxing energies of the body.
In the yoga practice we generally go through a series of asanas. There are seating poses, standing poses, balancing poses, bending poses, etc.
These asanas are grouped in ways to respond to specific goals. Each pose has a duration through which you hold it.
Unlike almost everything else which uses the clock to measure duration, the amount of time you hold a yoga pose is measured in breaths.
One breath consists of a full inhalation and exhalation (I tell you the world is a much better place when we measure duration in terms of breath than using those annoying hours, minutes and seconds).
Depending on one’s goal , the practice may require meditation. Meditation involves quieting the mind – which we all know tends to be on overdrive most of the time.
At first, meditation seems difficult, but one improves over time as one gets used to sitting comfortably and focusing on a single thing.
Because the mind tends to wander quite a bit, one should relax and keep drawing it back to the point of focus.
I go practice mainly to stretch and to exercise, while my more committed friends practice it diligently to maximize health, serenity and happiness. Now yoga, is not one of those forms of exercises you ‘rush into’.
What I mean is that you need to be mentally prepared to go through the practice- how you approach your practice affects the quality of your experience.
It’s best to clear your mind and think about what it is that you hope to achieve during that particular practice- to calm, focus, energize etc.
Yoga, has been good for me. I remember the first time I practiced yoga, I felt like a Mvuli firmly rooted to the ground while trying to get into the warrior 3 pose.
This pose requires balancing on one leg and stretching both arms in front of you and stretching the other leg behind you forming two (almost) perfect 90° angles – resulting in a T.
It might sound easy, but holding this pose requires a lot of concentration. I couldn’t get my back leg two inches off the floor without toppling over!
I’m proud to say that I can now hold warrior 3 for one….two…..three…. four…breaths, before submitting to gravity. Although I’m happy that I am able to get into warrior 3 with less difficulty, the most important achievement has not been being able achieve warrior three, but to appreciate my limits and to rely on the wisdom of my body than on the demands of my ego.