I was born stressed out. By the very nature of my description (Type A, middle-aged, neurotic, Jewish woman), I worry, not only about my husband, my daughter, and myself but also for the human race. I have my mother to thank for these traits. She taught me well.
As a Yoga teacher and Massage Therapist, it’s my job to provide guidance toward well-being. I’m quite sure that I chose this course of work because when my own family stops listening to me (which is often), I can still find an attentive audience in students and clients (God bless them).Enough about me. Let me really begin by defining Yoga. The dictionary definition of Yoga is ‘union’. Yoga is balance…The union of opposites, black and white, ups and downs, highs and lows. You get the idea. You can do this with your breath. The way I see it is this: you’re sitting in traffic at a 4-way stop sign and it’s your turn to go. The woman on your left with the headset who happens to be applying mascara in the rearview mirror, runs the stop sign thereby almost killing both of you. You have a split-second choice. You can gasp, tense your spinal column and expel expletives or, you can use the breath you learned in Yoga class that morning to calm your body down. The more you practice that use of that balance in a Yoga practice the more easily you can apply that same concept to your life.
I found Yoga at an early age. I was 17. I thought it was stupid. I thought, “Why am I sitting here quietly breathing and stretching. This is the seventies, man! I could be out there wearing pink spandex with the rest of the joint-crunching, high-impact aerobics fanatics”. At least there, I would release some tension!!! I didn’t realize at the time that I was learning the single most valuable tool that I would rely on later for peace and strength…not to mention sculpted abs, butt and thighs. Yoga is sweet work, satisfying, rewarding, mindful, work. I resisted it. It took me many years to understand that if I could learn patience and compassion for myself while trying to maintain a seemingly impossible Yoga posture, I could do the same thing in an up-tight situation in my life. When that concept truly kicked in, I felt better, looked better (I was taller…really) and I had more energy than I ever had before.
Students, clients and friends ask me, when I tell them how young I am, “How do you do it? You don’t look like you’re that age?” (…Pushing 52) I tell them I practice and teach Yoga. Some nod and say, “I’d like to try that”, but most reply with the first of three common excuses.
Excuse #1: I’m not flexible enough to do Yoga!
Excuse me? Many think that Yoga is wrapping your legs around your head while levitating above the ground and chanting in some foreign tongue. Sounds like a gas, and I’ve witnessed it, but…that’s not been my experience. Along with Excuse #1 usually comes the demonstration of trying to touch toes with straight knees (I try not to chuckle). I ultimately explain that that is precisely the reason to practice Yoga. That not only will your muscles and joints learn and gain flexibility, but so will your mind. Say what? Well, in order for your body to become more flexible, it takes time and repetition. Time and repetition requires patience for you because, this does not just … happen. The process of finding patience for you is mind-expanding. The result? Your mind and your body communicate with each other. What a concept…mind/body connection…pretty rare in our frenetic society. In addition to gaining that connection, the mindful movement is perfect therapy for improving your posture, cleansing your organs, moving pain out of the joints and muscles and eventually out of the body.
Not flexible enough to practice Yoga? Get over yourself. No one in class is watching you. They’re all worried about their own problems. Its really all bout you and you being okay with where you are right now, today, this minute. Some ask me, “Does Yoga really work?” My answer? “Only if you practice it.” Yoga calms my mind and works my body and although I’ll never be a “Type B” personality, I’m proud to say that Yoga has made me a solid “A minus”. My mind and my body occasionally connect and when that happens, its magic. Decisions come more easily and are made with clarity. I’m not so mad at people in traffic anymore and my hand gestures, I proud to say, changed from one finger to two. Peace man.