When someone mentions ‘yoga’ to you, what image pops to mind? Super-bendy, toe-touching, back-bending postures that both impossible and Instagrammable? Is yoga just another form physical exercise?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I took my first yoga class. In fact, I hadn’t even intended to join a yoga class, but I arrived at the gym at the wrong time, and that was the only class on offer. I figured it would be easy — a few stretches to some gentle music. 15 minutes into class, I was huffing and puffing. By the end of the 60-minute class, I was a sweaty mess.
There are many different forms of yoga — some focus on meditation and breathing, others on a continual flow of physical movement. My first class just happened to be the latter.
But at the end of the class, when the teacher had us in ‘Savasana’, the resting pose, something amazing happened: for once, in as long as I could remember, I thought of…NOTHING. Not my high-stress job which had nearly given me an ulcer. Not the list of to-dos waiting for me once I left the gym. Not the divorce I was going through.
Yes, my body was physically exhausted, but my mind was at rest. After that first class, I began to look for more yoga classes. I was looking to exercise the body but quiet the mind.
Yoga to me is a moving meditation. The type of yoga I practice and teach is called ‘Vinyasa Flow’. ‘Vinyasa’ in Sanskrit means ‘to place in a special way’. By linking movements and breath into a steady and thoughtful series of postures, we begin to flow in a way that strengthens and stretches our body and (hopefully) quiets our mind.
The third factor, the ‘spirit’, is difficult to explain. All I can tell you is that, to me, body, mind, and spirit are inextricably linked. Have you ever been physically exhausted, but your mind forces your body to push on? Or mentally worn out, but you physically force yourself to get up, get dressed, feed the kids, endure the commute, face the boss and angry customers, and repeat day after day? Think of the toll these activities take — not just on your body and mind — but your spirit. We’re more prone to anger, frustration, sorrow. We suppress one part of who we are and let the others (usually mind or body), take over.
At the end of a yoga class, a teacher typically says, ‘Namaste’, which means ‘the light (or the divine) in me recognises the light in you.’ A regular yoga practice helped me quiet my mind and turn physical movement into flowing meditation, thus helping my spirit, or ‘light’, to shine. Teaching yoga enables me to encourage the light in others.
Body. Mind. Spirit.