Yoga: Honouring the Divine Light Within

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I've never been one for exercise. The entire sweaty notion brings back distasteful grade nine Phys. Ed. class memories. I'd go for the occasional walk, but I shunned all other variations of physical activity, and my quest for health ironically did not include the term exercise. Then yoga came into my life.

"Sue. I've begun a yoga class. You must sign up.@ Something about my friend=s tone made me listen. She came to me at the right time and place in my life.

I heeded her advice and tried an introductory class at a local studio. That was two years ago, and I've never looked back. I would have heartily laughed at the notion of such dedication to a fitness class a few years ago. But for me, yoga has touched every aspect of my life, and has improved my mental, physical and spiritual well being.

Yoga Philosophy

Yoga is a Sanskrit word from India that means union. Yoga can be a variety of things for different people: physical exercise, breathing, meditation, relaxation, or an entire life philosophy. I=ve found you can pick and choose what aspects are important for you.

Hatha yoga is the most common Western yoga. This is the yoga we are all familiar with - a combination of physical postures and breathing techniques.

Yoga postures encourage strength, alignment, energy, rejuvenation and centering. Within the Hatha style, there are many schools and philosophies of yoga that guide the way B based on different gurus and varying emphasis in practice, such as distinct focuses on alignment, breath and posture flow.

Yoga Classes

Yoga classes can be taught in a community centre, fitness centre, private home, or yoga studio. The key is to find a location that feels comfortable.

My studio is a peaceful, candlelit escape from the noisy world. Part of my joy in attending yoga class is that it is sanctity for me to sit and think, with no interruptions from the phone, the doorbell or my young children.

For me, yoga is not about socializing, and I cherish the anonymity of the class and take the opportunity after class to slip out silently into the stillness of the night.

There are different types of classes within one type of yoga. I stayed in an Introductory class for a number of sessions. In yoga, there is no need to move into the next level unless that's what you want to do.

My instructor told me that some people remain in the introductory class for years. I'm careful to tailor make my yoga experience to my preferences, rather than to some preconceived schedule.

Yoga Instructors

Just as there are a variety of yoga styles and classes, there are also different types of instructors. The best ones let you work at your own pace, nurture a non-competitive environment, and offer gentle suggestions for posture adjustments.

Although the classes I take are co-ed, we actually have very few men in our midst. All the instructors offer modifications for those women who are menstruating or pregnant, and also make specific suggestions for those with physical ailments (like bad knees, or a sore neck).

The key is that I listen to my inner voice that tells me when to come out of a posture, and I work at my own pace.

Yoga in My Daily Life

The non-judgmental and gentle aspect of yoga appeals to me. Before I began class, I had many issues with my post-partum body and its altered shape and feel. I am now more accepting of the way that I look, and I believe that is due to my improved posture and my knowledge that my body is capable of moving in many different and amazing ways.

I had previously seen my body as a vessel for food, and now I see it as a vessel for self. I've lost weight this past year, because I feel I finally respect my body. I am respectful of the type and amount of food that I put in it, just as I am respectful of what my body tells me during yoga class - to slow down, to speed up, to stop. I now eat when I am hungry and stop when I am not.

It may sound simple, but knowledge that I can control what I put in my body is very powerful.

There is a meditative aspect to yoga that has helped me slow down in my daily life. I am less restless, less bored, and I find I can sit for periods of time, just thinking. I enjoy the repetitiveness of the classes and the studio: I take off my boots, sign in, hang up my coat, and then sit on my mat for a few moments of silence before class begins.

There's comfort in this repetition which allows my mind to clear and settle in for my practice. There are more subtle changes, as well. My partner says he finds I still have my characteristic short fuse, but it fizzles out more quickly. This has affected the way I mother my children, as I try to be more mindful in times of child-induced chaos.

Ohm Peace

At the closing of class, all yoga students engage in a final posture called savasana. This is the ultimate yoga pose and incorporates all the postures performed in the class. The instructor dims the light, puts on soothing music, and we lie on our mats, covered with our blankets and close our eyes for ten or fifteen minutes. It is the most peaceful time I have ever spent.

I can clear my mind and I feel weightless and free.

Yoga isn't for everybody, but it has helped me take charge of my own health and allowed me to finally honour that divine light that is within me. This light is within all of us, too, and we can all find it if we only learn how to look.

Sue Robins is a Winnipeg-based at-home mother, freelance writer, and yoga enthusiast.

Yoga Publications

Yoga Journal

How to Know God - Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood

The Essence of Yoga - Bernard Bouanchaud

Yoga for Dummies (don't let the title put you off) - Georg Fenerstein and Larry Payne

Yoga Web Sites

http://www.kripalu.org
http://www.yogacircle.com
http://www.yogajournal.com
http://www.spiritweb.org/Spirit/yoga.html
http://www.yogaclass.com
http://www.yogaville.org





Common Yoga Styles

Ananda

-uses energies within oneself to harmonize body, mind, and emotions, and above all to attune oneself with higher levels of awareness.

Ashtanga

-'Power Yoga' is based on this physically demanding yoga.

Bikram

-yoga performed in an extremely hot temperature environment.

Iyengar

-focuses on great attention to detail and precise alignment of postures.

Kripalu

-the yoga of consciousness, puts great emphasis on honoring the

wisdom of the body.

Sivananda

-follows a set structure that includes breathing, classic poses, and relaxation.

Viniyoga

- great emphasis on the breath and breath-movement coordination.