What got me started in yoga?
As you probably know from my pages and posts (My Story, How did I lose 75 pounds?), I’ve been practicing yoga for about a year now, and I’m amazed that I am. Years ago, I thought yoga was for weirdos and that I’d never do it, but I was lead into it by a strange set of events. I wanted to get fitter for skiing (Skiing? Yes! – I need fitness…) and I wanted to have a fitter abdomen in a hope that it would help heal my hernia (Oh no! A hernia! … more motivation), so I was starting to do exercises and stretches every morning.
I first started doing the exercises I found in this video, hoping they would help with my hernia. They certainly didn’t hurt anything, but I felt like I needed more, so I found more exercises on the internet to add and I found this book on curing hernias which had a lot more strenuous abdominal exercises that I started doing. At one point, I was doing all these for an hour a day.
One day, I started to get some lower back pain. At first that was surprising and I thought, “why is this happening – I’m doing all these stretches and exercises every day and I’m eating well”, and I thought that just keeping up the stretches should allow everything to go back to normal. But it got worse. I got worried enough to start looking on the internet for stretches to help with lower back pain. I found this book that explained to me how it was some of the stretches I was doing that was the cause of the back pain. Wow! That was something new to me. I thought all stretches would be good for you, but that’s not necessarily so. Even some of the really well known stretches we’ve been exposed to since school can be damaging to our bodies. This book by Jolie Bookspan was really helpful in this regard. It made me look at stretching differently and as something that can actually hurt you.
During all this study into stretching and how to do it without hurting yourself, I kept bumping into yoga. People were often suggesting that yoga was a good way to stretch and build strength. At the time, I kept disregarding this because of my belief that yoga was a weird thing that only strange people did. But it kept coming up in my exploration for knowledge available and I kept resisting it.
Then yoga found me… and forced me to get started in yoga
Then one day, all that changed. I was in a store waiting for my wife to buy something (you know the situation, waiting, but not really wanting to be there) and I noticed right on the shelf next to me, right beside my eyes, was a book called The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown. Was it a coincidence? I’m not sure, but I knew I had to buy it. Then after reading her introduction, I knew yoga was for me. It’s not what I thought it was at all.
Yoga is a very deep subject and I have a huge amount to learn. Even what I’ve learnt so far is too much to cover in this post and only a small part of yoga is the exercises or postures.
I really like the fact that in yoga you never strain. You go up to the limit of a muscles ability but no further.
You gradually make improvements. You keep your conscious mind aware of your whole body during any yoga posture. It’s easy to see that when I hurt my lower back doing other stretches, I had a goal of trying to touch my toes and I was forcing myself too far in that direction without observing that my lower back was straining. If we focus on one single muscle, or one objective, and don’t remain aware of our whole bodies, then we can cause problems.
The other thing I learnt very quickly about yoga is that the postures, even though they can look very easy, are actually really hard.
At first, some can feel almost impossible. This was good for me because I wanted to strengthen my body as well. It was clear that practicing yoga would give me strength and suppleness at the same time.
Yoga is also about working the mind and the body at the same time.
This is really terrific for me and a bit hard to fully explain here. The two, the mind and the body, are very tightly linked and I now believe you can’t improve one without improving the other. This is the premise behind yoga and it feels so right to me. We’ll leave this until another time.
Today (I’m writing this in November 2013) I’m doing about 30-40 minutes of yoga in the mornings when I wake and 5-10 mins before I go to bed. Below are the postures that I’m currently doing (I picked these as the ones that seemed to suit my body problems and tightnesses – I’d expect everyone to pick postures that seem to suit themselves). The names in parentheses are the French names that I got from my book that’s in French (it a French translated edition of an English book). I found some of the translations in English, but many I had to guess. Sorry if I got some wrong. One day I might add the Sanskrit names to avoid any confusion.
- The Cat (Le Chat)
- The Plank (La Planche)
- Four limbed staff (Le Bâton soutenu sur les membres)
- Sequence of the Sun (Séquence du Soleil)
- The Mountain (La Montagne)
- The Tree (L’Arbre)
- Relaxation of the neck (Assouplissement du cou)
- The easy turned pose (La Posture facile tour née)
- The Staff (Le Bâton assis)
- The Boat (Le Bateau)
- The pivoting abdomen, knees bent (L’abdomen pivotant, genoux pliés)
- The Straight Legs (Les Jambes Tendues)
- The Bridge (Le Pont)
- The Grasshopper/Locust (La Sauterelle)
- The Child (L’enfant)
- The Pendant (Le Pendentif)
- Standing Forward Bend (Flexion debout)
- Shoulder Stand (La Chandelle)
I don’t do all of these perfectly by any means, but I’m getting a little better every day. Christina Brown’s book has lots of tips on how to simplify each pose so you can progress at your own pace, little by little.
Yoga feels like the an exercise regime (for the mind and the body) that I’ll do for as long I have left in this life. Hopefully, I’ll continue to progress little by little for the rest of my days.
Related Links – What got me stated in yoga?
- The favourite yoga mat I ever bought (writing this in Aug 2019) was this one from Chin Mudra Yoga (which I bought while in France) – Taj Yoga Mat 100% organic cotton 2 m x 66 cm x 5mm – however, if you’d like to look at more yoga mat options and how to pick one, have a look at this page from consumersadvocate.org where they provide “a comprehensive guide to eco-friendly, non-toxic yoga mats”
- Find out more about Jolie Bookspan here – http://www.drbookspan.com
- Find out more about Christina Brown here – http://www.yogaaustralia.org.au/Profile/ChristinaBrown
I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on yoga. Please leave me a comment if you have time. Thanks.