from Nancy Kirkland
People derive different kinds of benefits from a yoga practice. Yoga and other eastern practices differ from most western forms of physical activity because you really have to incorporate the mind into the practice. With aerobic oriented activity like running or swimming, you can just let your mind drift off. With yoga, the mind focus brings a greater benefit in addition to the physical benefits of greater strength, flexibility, and balance. A lot of people sleep better, feel calmer, and breathe better. You don’t have to go in with the intention to get those benefits, they just result from doing a good yoga asana practice.
Yoga also helps people find what is challenging for them, be it physical, mental, or emotional, and helps find a way to address it. People often do yoga positions way too quickly. They will say their shoulder hurts, and I’ll say give it 6 months. Give pain time to resolve. Pain is a very good teacher and yoga is not a pain free practice. When people come to class with pain, they need to recognize that yoga is not an immediate cure all but that there are great benefits to a regular practice.
Yoga is a practice for people of all levels. HaLe’ has students ages 20 to 80, so don’t let fitness or age keep you away. Find a teacher that resonates with you and then stick with them. Don’t try for a lot of variety; go deeper instead of wider. Allow your class to become a community that develops over time. That’s a very supportive group to be in.
Also, don’t avoid props and don’t underestimate restorative yoga. Props like blocks, straps, and chairs make yoga much more accessible to people and allows them to achieve a comfortable practice with a properly aligned body. Restorative yoga is key to improving breath, awareness, and observations skills, even though a lot of people really resist it when they are new to yoga practice because they feel restless, want to exercise, and don’t see the value. It is an important part of a yoga practice; don’t ignore it.
A yoga practice, because it incorporates mind and body instead of being just body, comes with a lot of benefits. A good asana practice should be both convenient and enjoyable, and doing the yoga postures properly has different benefits for everyone. Most of all, though, don’t take it too seriously. It should also be fun.
Nancy Kirkland has 45 years of yoga practice and has been teaching yoga for 17 years.