Many years ago (okay, ten), when I was in law school, I took up a beginner’s class of Ashtanga Yoga. At the time, I wasn’t particularly interested in the physiological or spiritual underpinnings of yoga; nor did I really even have the desire to. I had enough to worry about with my law studies. I was told by a friend of mine that it was great for your overall health and breathing. She seemed to be glowing cheek to cheek when she said that to me. I was curious to find out for myself what that grin was all about. So, I drove myself to a yoga studio on the southside of town that came highly recommended.
And sure enough, there I was, the only guy (not that I was complaining) at the 8:30 a.m. morning class. I was extremely intimidated as it appeared the other attendees were highly flexible and I simply was not. Not that I wasn’t once flexible, because I was (I did wushu martial arts for a good 10 years through my teenage years) but it had been a very long time since I’ve forced my body into positions I knew would hurt – and likely injure me!
In hindsight, I think I got scared off by the idea that I could contort my body into strange positions, and that this would somehow cause me to reflect on myself, the things and people around me. I was too focused on other things, namely, getting through law school intact. So, I stopped going to the yoga class.
Fast forward many years later. It has only been in the last 5 months or so – with the change in my job from private practice to public practice (see my earlier post on going paleo) that I’ve had the time to take on a new practice – that is, a mindful, yoga practice. I’ve been doing Hatha Yoga at noon during the week, and also at home I’ve set up a meditation space to carry out my yoga practice (again having the time for it).
Now, just like paleo, I’m no expert in yoga. I don’t profess to be one at all. But, once again, if I were to say one or two things about how yoga has become an integral part of my daily life, here is what I would offer:
- you don’t have to be in a yoga studio or a gym to carry out a yoga practice; you can practise yoga almost anywhere, for example see Corey Roos’ inspiring instructional videos on Mindful Chair Yoga: http://www.whitecloudwellness.com/
(I have found Corey’s instructional videos highly useful in my daily work routine. Thank you, Corey!)
- your yoga practice is yours and yours alone; you bring to it what you intend each time you engage in your practice
- men are just as able to participate and enjoy the health benefits of a yoga practice – in fact, check out Dean Pohlman’s targeted videos for men at Man Flow Yoga: http://manflowyoga.com/
(Although I don’t speak for all men, what I can say is that I have experienced greater shoulder flexibility and balance after learning some valuable tips and techniques from Dean’s instructional videos. Thank you, Dean!)
- if you are able to set up your own meditation space in your home or office, I encourage you to do so.
- I have found that 30 minutes of mindful meditation in the morning before work helps me feel much more relaxed during the work day, and ready for my next yoga session.
- go at your own pace always; don’t feel you need to move at lightning speed through the poses. If you do, you’ve missed the point, and likely will cause nothing but disappointment and potentially physical injury to yourself.
- yoga can help to treat depression and anxiety, see recent CTV article “Healing the mind: Science shows yoga can help treat depression and anxiety” here: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/healing-the-mind-science-shows-yoga-can-help-treat-depression-anxiety-1.2207418
- also, see Dr. Eva Norlyk Smith’s Huffington Post article “Don’t Worry, Be Happy: How Yoga Helps Combat Depression” featuring Amy Weintraub (LifeForce Yoga) here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eva-norlyk-smith-phd/yoga-depression_b_845893.html
The actress said to us: “Look at the trees when you get to the top.”
I suppose it’s fitting that when I was in Sedona at the beginning of this month, I was informed that certain places in the area exhibit high “vortex” energy. No one could really explain what the vortex was, sadly. Not even the actress we met in the shopping district (see my previous post on Sedona). To her credit, though, the actress did say that we needed to go up to Airport road which offered actual, tangible evidence of the vortex. I was, of course, skeptical. But my friend and I decided to check out the sunrise there on our second last day in town.
The actress said to us: “Look at the trees when you get to the top.” When we got there, I figured out what she had meant. There are several twisted trees at the top of the rock. That’s the photograph you see at the top of this post. I was intrigued. But besides the trees, I was more intrigued to see several people confidently carrying out their morning yoga practice, saluting the sun as it came up over the red rocks.
That image has stayed with me since I returned to Edmonton. Do I believe in the vortex? I’m not sure. But what I do believe is that my yoga practice has brought something very important to my daily life. It has brought me a sense of peace that I have not known in my life, and I’m grateful for that. I wish you peace and love. Namaste everyone.
P.S. Here’s a short video I put together of photos I took during my unforgettable journey in Sedona: