The first time I tried yoga was over 12 years ago when I was pregnant and uncomfortable being on my back, my side, my anything!
It was my idea to join a yoga class and two of my friends humored me and came too. We went, and spent most of the time in our class laughing at my inability to do any of the poses, for fear of falling forward on my belly. My favorite part was at the end, when we got to lay on our backs in silence: shavasana. Once, during shavasana, I think I actually dosed off!
A good feeling stayed with me, though. When my daughter was two years old, I tried again, keeping with it on and off for the next several years. Now I actually practice yoga. I do believe there is a difference between doing yoga and practicing yoga. Back then, I did yoga, I bought a book, and was quite comfortable being in the poses. Now I attend a yoga class at my community club three times a week, and I can say I practice yoga.
Yoga is so much more than just going to a class, and doing the poses. It is about living a lifestyle, training your mind, knowing the confines of your body, and letting go of the fear that keeps you from limiting yourself. Yoga unites mind, body and spirit.
Practicing yoga, allows for limitless possibilities for growth and self awareness. When I am working on a difficult pose, and I begin to shake and feel like I want to tumble to the ground, I look inward, and I learn patience and forgiveness and strength of my mind and body. I breathe out, and I am amazed when I can actually go deeper into the pose. Don’t get me wrong. When I come out of my pose, I am happier than heck and give a sigh of relief, but I am so proud that my mind assisted my body in doing something I didn’t think was possible.
The physical benefits of practicing yoga include better flexibility, muscle tone, strength and pain prevention. Some of the mental benefits of practicing yoga are mental calmness, stress reduction and body awareness.
I have to say, one of the best aspects of my yoga class, is the connection made with the other ladies. When someone falls over, we laugh; when the instructor thanks us for our energy, we smile at each other; when one of us blurts out the pose seems impossible to do because our boobs are in the way, the interruption is often a welcomed one!
There are many health benefits to practicing yoga, but let’s not overlook the one that helps our sometimes small world a better place — strangers who come together to improve their health and end up friends. I encourage you to take a look in your neighborhood, find a class being offered, grab a friend, or go it alone.
Tannis Ross is a St. Vital-based writer.
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