1. Why not?
SO many people tell me that they aren't flexible enough to do yoga. So. Many. People.
That's literally like saying you're too dirty to shower. It's nonsense, really.
I might be going out on a limb here, but in my experience, this particular excuse stems from a fear of said person thinking they won't be "good" at yoga. Yoga is not something a person is good or bad at. I can't stress this enough, especially to people who are brand new to the asana practice (physical postures).
I think you should ask yourself two things if you're thinking of embarking on a "yogaventure:"
A. Why am I interested in yoga?
- Have you always wanted to give it a try, to know what all the fuss is about?
B. What do I want to get out of the practice?
- Do you have back pain? Sit a lot at a desk? Looking for a more holistic approach to heath without medications?
It's easy to make excuses. I remember I made them for years before finally stepping on a mat at a free community, donation based class in Northern California. This day and age, yoga studios are offering loads of classes catered to beginners. If that isn't your thing, maybetry a private lesson one-on-one so you can build your confidence with your body, breath work and the poses.
2. Yoga makes you more mindful.
Mindfulness is a term that has been bludgeoned to death of late in my opinion. I love the premise though, being in the present moment and acknowledging the thoughts, feelings and sensations of that moment. In this day in age, we are typically focused on what's ahead: where am I going? . . . what do I need to do? . . . what do I want from life? We anticipate and plan a course of action. That is the very definition of life in a way, meeting obstacles and problem solving how we might best maneuver through each day, month, and year.
For example, let's take a middle aged Aussie mum of three young children. She would need to organize school lunches, school drop offs, work a full time job AS WELL AS orchestrate school pick up, evening activities, dinner, the works. Just typing that all out gave me heart palpitations. Sometimes we have to look at the day ahead of us like that so we can tick all the boxes. But, I think you'd agree with me when I say that most of us don't take life a day at a time. I would venture to say that a vast majority of people tend to look at the bigger picture. I personally believe this is a root cause for anxiety. The unknown of what's to come, what bad things may or may not happen can be overwhelming at the best of times.
If becoming a mum has taught me anything it's that I occasionally have to take bite size pieces of life. Sometimes I do life an hour at a time, other times, when things are tough, a minute at a time. This is one of the reasons yoga and mindfulness go hand in hand. When you are on your mat in a quiet space, free from the distractions of work, relationships or noisy children, you actually have a small window of time to just be. To breathe. To be present. You can listen to the sound of your breath, the sensation of the breathe as it rises and falls. This can make you become more aware of your thoughts and the clutter of your mind. Sometimes people find this difficult, they think, once again, that they are bad at yoga because that can't turn their mind off. Newflash number 2 - unless you're a Buddhist monk, you probably won't ever be able to turn your mind "off." However, yoga will gift you the tools to help aid you through the business of life. I'm a firm believer in stressing this to my students. We'll spend 60-90 minutes together, but what we practice is not meant for the yoga studio alone. I want them to take it out and live it. When they are on a busy train feeling anxious, I hope they remember their breathing techniques. When they're having a sleepless night, I hope they remember that vviparita karani is a fantastic, gentle inversion to prepare for sleep and restore the body.
The word yoga originates from the sanskrit root "yuj" which means union or yoke. In a spiritual sense, it means union of the Individual Self with the Universal Self.
3. Because we should all slow down just a bit.
International Yogini, Ulrica Norberg states in her book Restorative Yoga, "When we are on the go all the time, we lose connection with ourselves because we don't pause to charge our batteries in a biological, natural way. We live in a cultural poverty where we no longer know how to take a break, and many of us believe pausing something strange or weak."
We glamorize busy. "I'm so busy," is brandished like some badge of honor or importance. News flash, it's neither. I know I'm guilty of this myself, there is no denying it. I'm a lot better than I used to be though, and I honestly know the difference between being too busy and using it as an excuse for things I don't want to do or people I don't want to see. Sounds harsh, but it's true. We make time for people and things that are important to us. When was the last time you made time for yourself? When was the last time you actually carved out a chunk of time for yourself to do as much or as little as you wanted?
Pranayama, or breathe control, is practiced during yoga and helps to slow the heart rate and breathing rate. It can also combat depression, anxiety and insomnia. Taking time to be still, quiet the mind, and do one thing at a time can take practice. Many of my students feel completely refreshed after I open my class with a brief four minute guided Pranayama and nothing more! It's remarkable how the mind wants to heal itself, if only we would let it!
4. Better body image.
Yoga helps to develop an inner awareness. The focus is not on the physical appearance, it's to help take you on a journey inward. If you've visited yoga studios before, you might remember a lot of them don't actually have mirrors. They tend be to quite distracting. One could argue they are good for alignment, but I think using proprioception is a better tool, and that's what the teacher is there for, to help give the verbal cues needed to get you to into the asana.
Surveys show that people who practice yoga not only had better awareness of their bodies, but they also were documented as being more satisfied and less critical of their bodies (in comparison to those who didn't have a yoga practice).
Moving in this way, or using it as a form of exercise, if you will, tends to make you more aware of your physical body. First inwardly, then eternally. For example, I personally find I'm more mindful about what I eat and put into my body if I have had a good yoga session that morning!
5. Overall health booster.
I used to teach corporate yoga quite a bit in Melbourne. My favorite place to work was a large corporation in Mulgrave where the associates were under high stress all the time. I taught my class in a large boardroom after work from 5-6pm. At the beginning of class my student's stress was visible in their neck, shoulders and posture. After an hour together practicing restorative yoga, they were calmer, collected and moved with more fluidity.
We know that yoga can soothe the body and mind of anxiety and tension, but what else can it do for you on the spectrum of health? According to a study done at Harvard University, a group of sedentary people who had never practiced yoga before, did yoga twice a week for eight weeks, totaling 180 minutes. At the end of the study, the individuals had greater flexibility, muscle endurance, muscle strength, and cardio-respiratory fitness.
Another study attributed practicing yoga to improved lipid profiles in healthy patients. Better yet? It also showed improved lipid profiles with patients who had known coronary artery disease. Yoga also helped to lower excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes, thus reducing their need for doctor prescribed medications. It's worth noting that yoga is actually being included in cardiac rehabilitation programs because of its cardiovascular and stress relieving benefits.
Happy New Year to you dear reader! I hope that you'll continue to deepen your yoga practice if you have one. If you're new to yoga, I can only pray that this article is what will get you to a class or a private lesson that might be the first day of the rest of your life.
I woke up are 4:57 AM today.
I tried to go back to sleep. I tried pretty hard actually. Husband was asleep. Bub was asleep. The house was quiet, the time was mine.
Much to my surprise, I got up and made it 10 steps to the living room where I collapsed in a heap with my yoga props.
During my yoga teacher training I learned there are two types of yoginis in the world, "Pushers" and "Sensualists."
Pushers are drawn to hot, sweaty vinyasa classes. They love a challenge, strive to find the next edge, and thrive on control and progress. Sensualists are more about, you guessed it, the sensations. They enjoy the surrender and relaxation of the asana practice.
We were asked by show of hands what category we belonged to. Most of the room raised their hand for the "pusher" mentality, including myself. I lived for vinyasa and teacher training was THE best because we doing up to five hours of active yoga a day! I was in my element.
"Pushers," the teacher said. "If you are a pusher, then you need more restorative yoga in your life. And sensualists, you should try to take more vinyasa classes. You usually need what you are not drawn too."
I couldn't think of anything worse. I needed restorative yoga? Says who? Why take a restorative yoga class when I could just have a nap instead? I longed for fast paced classes that made me feel like I accomplished something. I wanted a breath with each movement. I wanted to be so in the zone the I was unable to think about anything else. No stress, no distractions. The busy mind fell away during vinyasa because I'd work so hard, and got so damn tired, I couldn't think about anything except: stick this pose - don't fall over - breathe - breathe - breathe. I used to flow until I was near vomiting, checking for a quick exit in case I did chunder. True story.
I was quite literally pushing myself to exhaustion... and for what?
I was using asana as bandaid. Asana is so much more than that.
Yoga should be used as tool to open the mind and the body in order to facilitate transformation. It shouldn't just be a workout; I should have known better.
I decided to try Restorative yoga and give it a red hot go. My first experience was, simply put, horrible. I hated every single second of the class. From memory, we did four poses in the hour, and all I did was look at the clock, wondering how much longer we were going to be in said position. My body was screaming to move. The long static holds were agony and being left alone with the company of my own thoughts made my head want to implode.
I left angry, agitated and in a foul mood. I'd attended the class after a full 9 hours of teacher training and marched home in a tissy, regretting my decision and affirming out loud, "As if I'm ever going to do that again."
“A lot of people think that restorative yoga is like a bliss practice, where they’ll just be lying around and relaxing,” says Jillian Pransky, the national director of restorative yoga training for YogaWorks. “But the practice of being still and restful provokes anxiety for many people. And during times of extreme stress, such as illness, a difficult transition, or grief, releasing control of the body can overwhelm the nervous system.”
Turns out, I'm not alone. What a relief! I thought I was the one person who felt paralyzed during the class, crippled with anxiety.
A few years later, I was asked to teach restorative yoga at my favorite yoga studio in Melbourne. Inside, I silently rolled my eyes, but I said I'd think about it. I didn't need to think about it, I knew I was not a good candidate because it was a style of yoga that I wasn't passionate about. I felt like teaching it would be inauthentic, not to mention, boring.
I mulled it over some more, and eventually decided to give it a go. I felt that I needed to keep pushing my boundaries so that I could continue to grow as a teacher. I read up on it, practiced at home, wrote out fervent lesson plans and attended my second and third class at the studio where I would be teaching. I still struggled during the classes, but I had matured quite a bit, and I had many hours of teaching under my belt at this point. I was nowhere near hooked, but I was interested in the potential that restorative yoga could offer.
I taught my first class on a weekday, can't remember when it was exactly. People had come after work, before dinner, for some quiet time. I had the perfect music picked and a stellar lesson plan. I was determined to deliver the best class I could, one that I might have enjoyed taking.
I felt really fantastic after the class and I got a lot of kind feedback from the students. I felt as if I had just completed a class myself. I was super mellow, calm, and I felt like a million bucks watching people leave as if they were walking on air.
I was hooked.
I found a three day intensive Restorative Yoga Teacher Training in Melbourne through Ana Davis of Bliss Baby Yoga. I enrolled with my mate Rachael and we studied to our hearts content about the parasympathetic nervous system and the benefits of the practice. We had both discovered this practice later in life and were keen to learn more about the science behind the asana.
What is Restorative yoga?
I fell head over heals in love with teaching restorative yoga. I'm not sure if it's the dimly lit room, the melodic hum of the music (or no music, even better), or maybe it was the drastic shift in the student's body language from the beginning of class to the end of savasana.
Much to my surprise, I started to get a little following of regulars, and many of them started to confide in me about their struggles with anxiety and depression. It took me back to my initial class where I felt so tightly wound. I panicked thinking, "Oh crap. They already have anxiety. It is your job to FIX it." But it wasn't my job, it was their job. That was why they came, to help remedy their busy minds and hectic days. My mission was to allocate the stressors, slow it down, get them to unravel, breathe, surrender, breathe some more, just be in the one place... we are all in the together after all.
I always went out of my way to take 2 minutes at the beginning of class to explain what restorative yoga was, how it worked and that we would be holding the poses for some time. This was a blanket statement for new and old students alike. I wish the teacher of my first restorative yoga class had the same courtesy because I would have spent less time predicting a pose change and more time going inward and chilling out.
And don't think I've lost sight of the irony of this situation. Isn't funny how we changed and evolve as individuals? Since having a baby, by body has changed significantly, and my desire to practice has shifted as well. I'm no longer drawn to hot sweaty vinyasa classes like I once was. Nowadays I find a strong pull toward slowing down. Gentle, slow flow classes and restorative yoga are my JAM lately. I feel like I need yoga now more than ever, and I don't want to escape my thoughts. I love my thoughts. And yes, they get loud sometimes, but that's OK. That's life, and I love my life and the ability to bask in this ancient practice.
So as my yoga props caught me this morning at 5am, I was more than thankful . . . and smirked to myself at how naive I once was.
Mum and Baby Yoga classes are a wonderful way to introduce or reintroduce your body back into yoga in a safe, enjoyable and empowering way, with baby in tow.
Take the time out from your week to give back to you, reconnecting with your breath, your body and your emotional needs all whilst keeping a watchful eye over your little one and enjoying some of the practice with them. Our Mum and baby classes focus on yoga postures specifically designed for postnatal mothers by helping your body regain strength and tone in a safe and effective way, whilst also supporting you to let go and enjoy some well deserved relaxation. These classes also give you an opportunity to introduce your baby to yoga, enjoy some quality bonding time, and share time with other new mums.
When: Every Wednesday from 10.45 to 11.45am
Ages: From 6 weeks to Active crawling.
Mums & Baby Yoga Classes promote:
* Strengthening the pelvic floor, the abdomen, legs and back
* Opening and relaxing tensions in the shoulders, neck and arms
* Improving circulation and improving and maintaining good posture
* Reducing fatigue and increasing relaxation
* Breath awareness and stress management techniques
Price : $125 for 6 weeks
CLICK HERE TO ENROLL NOW!!
I'm not a professional house cleaner . . . I don't need to keep my house in a perfect state of harmony to be content and at ease.
I decided to keep it super simple this year, let go of expectations and stop unnecessarily placing myself under the harsh microscope of my own scrutiny.
Here are a few of my "IDEAS" that I did decided to strive for :
No iPhone time 30 minutes before bed
No iphone within 30 minutes of waking up (Try not to look until after breakfast)
Read the daily entry from my 365 yoga book
After reading, sit in silence and mediate (seated in bed) while rubbing my belly and doing some Pranayama breathing exercises
Do some light morning stretches in or on the edge of the bed (neck, shoulders, upper back, sometimes hips)
_ That's it _
Not going on the iphone before bed is excellent because your brain isn't bombarded by blue light which prevents melatonin from kicking in and allowing you to feel tired. Not going on the iphone in the first 30 minutes of my day helps me to feel more clear headed and goal orientated. When I would wake up and go through the checklist of imessages --> Email --> Instagram, I was usually arriving at breakfast wondering why I hadn't already climbed some amazing mountain, why I didn't have the perfect Scandinavian home, why I didn't have 3 perfectly groomed, gorgeous children and why on earth did I only have a plain-jane breakfast that wasn't even pretty enough to take a photo of. . . Yuck.
Am I right though? Can anyone else relate to this?
Waking up and having this new routine has made a world of difference the last month. By the time I have woken up, done my routine and had breakfast, I'm ready to read the news and address the little red bubbles calling for attention. I dictate the what, when and how. Some mornings that means not even going on Instagram, other times that means reading a iMessage, but not feeling the pressure to respond immediately while I nurse a green tea and take a moment to mentally prepare for the day ahead.
I hope that your 2017 is off to an excellent start and that you're happy, healthy and striving to the best you can be (without killing yourself in the process).
Yo, I'm Erica
I'm Erica: a globe trotting Pinterest addict, sushi enthusiast, craft beer drinker, yogini, wife and mum.... not in that order.