As a child, I told my mother that I wanted to take the "beautiful woman" class at the gym. She asked me what I meant, and I told her that it was the class where all the women who came out of it were beautiful; they all glowed. It turns out that they had been inside practicing yoga, and my mother had been one of them. She let me go to class, and I loved it. She told me, "We are only as flexible as our spines." And after many years, I believe she is still correct.
Yoga is supposed to be a preparation for meditation and prayer. For me, it is my sanity. It keeps me mentally balanced and sound, and I simply can't go without it. It allows me to have a laser beam-like concentration on things. It keeps me in the moment. It gives me perspective (in that we're not starving like some in the world or missing three limbs). When we are prostrate in a yoga posture, it is humbling to surrender to the universe.
But what is yoga really -- twists and turns? Initially, it was created by the holy men to keep them healthy so that they could do more and more prayer and meditation. All that twisting and turning massages the internal organs and eliminates toxins, while exercising and strengthening the body. And yoga can be done at any and all ages. Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and the yoga sutras are beautiful to read as they contain so much wisdom and knowledge.
After yoga, one comes out of class feeling elated. I do, at least. I have heard of people crying and releasing emotions, but I always feel elated and relaxed with those beta-endorphins coursing through my body, releasing all their feel-good properties. One thing is for sure, you are always happy that you went, especially when you've had to drag yourself there after a long day. Morning yoga is a lovely way to start the day, and yoga at twilight is a great way to greet the evening.
Yoga can be done alone or in a class setting. It can be done indoors or outdoors. I have had some wonderful yoga classes, but none so lovely as at the Golden Door. Their "dragon gym" looked as though we were in a tea house and felt as though we were in a tree house with tree tops poking their lovely heads out everywhere, and the yoga instruction is top drawer. I love doing yoga on a fitness ball (around 65 centimeters size), where you can really work on your warrior postures using the ball between your legs for balance. Try it.
My favorite teacher in Santa Monica is Alyson Khan, who reads to us before class. It becomes something of a spiritual evening story experience after everyone has put in a long day. Her balance of postures seems to get the knots out, and does so in a meditative way. She is magical and so is TruYoga, which is adjacent to Trifitla (another incredible facility to service jocks and hopeful jocks who do triathalons).
Ayurvedic medicine doctor Mark Nasralla* of the Hall Health and Longevity Center in Venice, California shared this yoga sutra about yoga postures, or asanas, being "steady pleasantness" and I think this says it best. Yoga is not jumping through hoops or doing Marine Corps drills with the postures, despite what I see in yoga studios. For me, the kind of yoga that works from the inside out is much more about quietude and meditation, and this is what I would encourage seeking out: Hatha , Iyengar or restorative yoga.
Perhaps this haiku I wrote says it all:
I go for Yoga
I flow with its ancientness
Now I can move free
Please feel free to comment below or friend me on Facebook! I look forward to your thoughts!
*(This before he gave me my first Ayurvedic treatment, but more about that in an upcoming blog.)