Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Every Body Can Do Yoga

Different people do yoga for different reasons.  Personally, I do yoga for the mental benefits. Sure it is great for the physical body, too, but the relaxed mental clarity I get is what keeps me coming back.

I’ve heard it put like this: yoga gets some of the stiffness out of the body to make the mind more flexible.  (Seriously, who doesn’t want more of *that* in their life?)

The most common worry people have about trying yoga is that they won’t be flexible enough to do it. To this I say two things: If you can breathe you can do yoga, and people vary.

Any Body that can breathe can do yoga.
Are you breathing?  If you are reading this then I’ll assume the answer is *yes*.  Well then. You can do yoga. You don’t have to be able to twist yourself into a pretzel or touch your toes or even walk- you just have to have the ability to control your breath.

There are some amazing benefits that come from just doing a breath practice.   Breathing is the only autonomous function you can easily override at will. The others – digestion, endocrine system functions, heart rate, etc – you can’t readily control. (unless you are crazy good at biofeedback I guess).  When you practice consciously controlling your breath, you are using both hemispheres of your brain at once.  This means new neural pathways between the two are forged and strengthened.  New and strengthened neural pathways between the right and left brain means more brain power! Additionally, you’ll be increasing your lung capacity, stretching out the tiny muscles in between your ribs (called intercostal muscles), and taking in fresh oxygen.
Combining the breath with various yoga postures can help you manage your stress.  More on that later.

For now, the most important thing to keep in mind about yoga postures:

People Vary
The original yogis were men in India who left society to go meditate in caves. Meditation is hard so they did physical stuff with their bodies (yoga) to make seated meditation easier.

My body as a 30-something-female, who lives in modern society is not the same as the body of the Indian men who fasted and did yoga and meditation as their main activity in life. Some of the poses they came up with just don’t work for my body. That's okay.

Some poses won’t be possible for you because of your anatomy. Paul Grilley has photos of the variations that can occur in normal, healthy bones.  Depending on your bones, joints, and anatomical composition some poses might not be possible. That's okay.

Some poses won’t be possible for you because of your life experiences.  I have a narrowing in my left big toe joint.  I don’t know why. It has just happened over the years.  It makes it painful for me to bend the toes in my left foot.  I also have a bad left knee. There are some poses I just can’t do. That's okay.