Many of us walk like stressed out zombies- tensely dragging through a life that's like an over-filled martini glass spewing its mixture of stress hormones and toxins with our every move. Tight from worries about the past and fears of the future, our muscles desperately grip our bones. Adding to the aging process, each daily obligation engraves more wrinkles across our zombie foreheads. Are we too busy to truly live? Is there a way to break the trance of distraction that dominates our consciousness and ravages our emotional and physical health? If we are willing to change our zombie walk and bend our bodies a little, the answer is YES!
Whether it’s a zombie mommy, lawyer, carpenter, schoolteacher, or perhaps a zombie chiropractor, dozens of people drag their stiff and tense bodies to yoga studios each day for a renewal. The zombie terrors racing around in our minds are calmed. Toxins stored in our tissues release. Muscles soften. Faces glow peacefully. The ancient practice of yoga brings even those in the deepest trance back to a natural state of awareness and connection to life. The joy of being alive is restored!
What is the yoga class experience like? It ranges from gentle and slow to intense and highly athletic. There is a class for everybody. The style that I practice and teach at Yoga U is called Vinyasa Yoga. This method uses the breath to link a dynamic movement from one posture (called an asana) to another. It is beautiful, powerful and deeply calming to the mind. The movement generates internal heat that greatly enhances flexibility. This process is aided by heating the room. The movement and heat detoxify the body by massaging and twisting the internal organs and muscles and by creating a cleansing sweat.
A Vinyasa Yoga class brings pleasant relaxation, even if you just imagine it. As you walk into the room, the angelic sound of tranquil music fills the air. You see the other students and recognize a look of deep appreciation on their faces. The room is an oasis in the middle of their busy lives, as it will be in yours. The warmth of the room caresses your skin and fills your lungs. You place your water bottle at arm's reach. You lay out your mat and towel. Following the soft command of the teacher’s voice, you take the first position.
In Vinyasa Yoga, your initial postures are relaxed and designed to warm your body. Joints are gently moved and blood saturates the area around them. The use of a heat-generating and calming respiration style called Ujjayi breathing is started. Your stresses begin to melt away as the movement and heat progresses. Your mind’s distractions fade and your focus is heightened. As your attention to the passing of time decreases, you enter a zone of pure joy.
Now the pace quickens. As you move between flowing poses, words dance from the teacher's tongue like the movements they elicit: swan dive, upward facing dog, downward facing dog and warrior one. Sweat begins to escape your body, taking with it the toxins and tensions built from the previous days. Balancing on one extremity in the tree pose, and then king dancer, your breath deepens. Generated by the partial closure of the throat with the glottis, a gentle ocean-like sound fills the room. The standing asana practice flows to the floor where back bending commences.
The cobra, locust and the bow postures stretch and strengthen spines that have been hunched over a desk or a computer for countless hours. The many ligaments, tendons and muscles of the back are revitalized and nourished with oxygenated blood. On a subtle level, energy pathways are invigorated and opened. The freed vital energy of the universe called prana courses throughout the many channels within you.
Drenched in sweat, we begin the abdominal series. Boat, the fire series, and the bridge pose further stoke your inner fire. Moving collectively, the class acts as an orchestra conducted by its combined breath. For you, there is no this or that, then or when… only now!
The moment has come for the half lord of the fishes, bowing in the head-to-knee pose, and releasing in the pigeon. This floor practice is designed to slow your pace. Wringing out in a twisted root, the class moves into the final resting pose or Shavasana. In a blissful state of inaction, lying on the back with arms out and closed eyes, your breath quiets in its natural cadence and depth. Each part of your body and mind completely releases into a restful state that transcends the imagination.
It’s time to return to the world. As you roll onto your right side in a fetal position, your eyes remain closed. You then sit as if in a symbolic rebirth back to one’s self. You face forward with hands in prayer over an open heart. With the words Namaste the 75-minute present is unwrapped and the gift enjoyed. You feel inner peace, connection and relaxation that will remain with you as your resume your normal path of activity off the mat.
Yoga can be practiced safely by all! Those who feel they are inflexible, out of shape, beyond stressed or even finely tuned athletes will be surprised by what they can do to improve their lives. No matter where you are, the yoga adventure can take you farther. It may be one majestic waterfall from the fountain of youth… it definitely makes you feel more alive! Find a qualified teacher. Give it a try for a few weeks, and learn how quickly it will improve your mental and physical well being. Begin to spend time and get to know the real you. All you have to do is be mentally flexible and willing to bend your body a little!
If you have a health concern and you are unsure if yoga is appropriate for you, please consult with Dr. Rosenthal or another health care practitioner prior to starting a class.