Several years ago I hit the big 40. Or more correctly, it hit me.
I realized I’d reached a point where I was actually going to have to work at being healthy. My muscles, mind, metabolism, and well basically my body in general, was no longer in the same shape it had been when I was 30 … much less 20.
It was easy enough to improve my diet. And I began using resistance bands in my truck (did I mention I am a truck driver?). I also walked more. On days I was home I would visit the gym. I also did a little pilates.
But I wanted something to round out my routine. I discovered yoga.
My first introduction was a simple video called “Yoga in Bed”. It is perfect for beginners and contains 20 easy asanas. The poses are meant to be done in bed before rising in the morning (‘sunshine stretch’, ‘morning roll’, and ‘easing into the day’)and after getting in bed at night before you go to sleep (‘child’s pose’, ‘nighttime goddess’, and ‘chillout meditation’).
What I discovered about yoga is that just about anyone can do it. (Of course always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.) It is practiced at the level comfortable to you. Yoga isn’t really a religion. What it has become to me, is more like a life practice. My research into it left me with the conclusion that advice and answers are sometimes inconsistent when it comes to its history and definition. What was always consistent, however, was the descriptions on how it was beneficial to mind, body, and spirit.
And I found that to be true.
Historically, yoga was pretty much passed down from teacher to student, so what we practice today is based on shared or combined knowledge and experiences of many individuals and over hundreds (thousands?) of years.
There are many different ‘schools’ of yoga: hatha, ashtanga, kundalini, mantra, tantra, jnana, and raja are just a few of the more familiar.
Ashtanga yoga is generally known as “classical yoga” and contains eight steps:
1. yama which means “restraint”
2. niyama which is “observance”
3. asana which is physical exercise
4. pranayama which is breathing techniques
5. pratyahara is preparation for meditation
6. dharana is concentration
7. dhyana is meditation
8. samadhi is the realization of the essential nature of oneself.
However, the more commonly practiced hatha yoga focuses mainly on steps # 3, 4, and 5: exercise, breathing, and meditation.
This is the yoga I discovered worked well for me.
With the ‘Yoga in Bed’ video I as introduced to breathing techniques, and body awareness. The benefits from this simple introduction made me crave to learn more. So I found a pilates/ yoga DVD set and tried it.
I hate to say this, but I didn’t enjoy it as much. There was nothing wrong with the video. In fact it was great because it addressed alternate asanas (poses) for those with more limited flexibility and strength.
Sometimes help arrives just when you need it. Shortly after trying my new DVD my daughter in law informed me that our apartment complex was offering free yoga classes (for tenants) in the gym that very Saturday. Actually, they now have them every Saturday. Yay!
It was just what I needed. DVDs are nice. But a yoga student really needs a yoga instructor to gain full benefit of the practice.
From the videos I had grasped the benefits of breathing and learned about being centered. But I was concerned about doing the asanas properly and gaining the most benefit from them.
I worried about my physical limitations. I’d broken my arm at my wrist years ago and I can’t put pressure on it long, and this makes certain asanas difficult to hold. I also have a couple of bad disks in my back. I also explained I would probably only attend her class once a month due to my job. My teacher patiently answered all my questions and assured me that yoga can be practiced alone and that my once a month attendance would be fine.
That reassurance she gave me and the knowledge she shared was just what I needed to feel confident using the new DVD as a guide to grow in my practice of yoga.
My overall health and well being has improved. I’ve never really been a stressed person, but I did tend to have trouble just relaxing. I am now calmer (okay, those of you who know my online alter ego … stop laughing!) and feel centered. I have greater physical strength and flexibility. I sleep much better.
A few years ago 40 hit me.
Well, I hit back with yoga. And I feel really good about my 40s now.