After feeling like I was on top of the world following this morning’s yoga class, I felt compelled to write about my personal experience with this gentle art. I feel like yoga is great because it combines exercise with spirituality, the ultimate soul-mind-body connection. Yoga promotes flexibility and teaches patience. It has the ability to take away aches and pains, loosen tight joints and create a feeling of euphoria. The particular type of yoga I have been practicing lately is called Vinyasa Yoga.
Poses in this type of yoga follow one another in a sequential flow. As you transition from one position to another, you work to synchronize your breathing with movement. My friend Anthony, in a previous post, talked about Downward Dog as an entry into the world of movement. Vinyasa practitioners incorporate Downward Dog as well as other stimulating poses to create a rush of energy that you can feel during the class. Connecting your breath to your movement is difficult at first, but once you start subconsciously doing this, all the poses and holds become easier. Traditionally, during intense exercise we have a tendency to hold our breath when using strength or flexibility. Unintentionally holding our breath restricts the flow and supply of oxygen into the blood, therefore dramatically reducing our endurance and strength endurance. By practicing yoga and conscious breathing, we provide our body with much needed oxygen. Vinyasa focuses on “flowing” through the poses while maintaining solid breathing, it is a phenomenal feeling when you start to get the hang of it.
Controlling our breath and being aware of it truly goes a long way. For example, when your mind is full of anxious thoughts, the breath tends to get choppy and short. This makes it difficult for the anxiety progress to be reversed because your thoughts now took a physiological turn. The breathing gets fast and short, usually subsiding when we can get ourselves together again. In extreme cases, people hyperventilate and have full blown panic attacks. A yoga or a martial arts practitioner who is mindful of his/her breathing can work towards slowing the body down during those times of stress. By recognizing this bodily process we can actually get a hold of ourselves and prevent thoughts from converting into emotions. This is something that needs to be practiced and certainly deserves it’s own post. What you need to take away from this is that yoga cannot only get your body into shape, but also put you in charge of your mind.
This practice can be exhausting, but the class intensity is often dialed down for beginners. It is definitely something that is available for all fitness levels and that is what makes it so versatile and useful for anyone. Besides stretching and holding poses, yoga instructors often read insightful passages from books or guided meditation during Shavasana (relaxation part of the class). Shavasana is many people’s favorite part of the class because it allows your body to completely relax after a bout of exercise. We lay motionless and feel the blood rushing back into the different parts of the body following a series or even an hour of stretching and holding. During this time, instructors spray and massage essential oils and talk us through a meditative sleep stage towards the end of the class.
I have not yet had much experience with different types of yoga, so I write this specifically about Vinyasa. This practice has given me a lot of flexibility, body control, and breathing control. I also feel much stronger and can hold my breath a lot longer. I feel more at peace with myself than I did before starting yoga. Trying Vinyasa can be extremely beneficial for everyone so if you have been thinking about starting an exercise program, yoga can be a low impact but very effective choice. I am not affiliated with the school in any way other than being a student, but I want to give a shout out to YogaPath Studio in Moorestown, NJ for providing a great relaxing atmosphere and always high level of instruction. Having said that, I am adding another class a week to my schedule because I can feel the benefits and want more 🙂