Yoga is so much more than a series of ancient postures perfected over time in a studio… it is a way of living.
There are many ways to “live yoga” and Yoga can be practiced on many levels. Having an open, compassionate heart is a true goal of a practice. Jesus, Bhudda, Krishna, Kuan Yin, The Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, The Divine Mother, all have a common thread, they live(d) a life of service, full of love and compassion. Compassion can spring from considering your actions from three levels, your thinking mind, your spirit (or your heart), and your body. Keeping thoughts, words, and actions all in alignment with the practice of ‘nonviolence’ (the use of peaceful means, not force, to bring about change) can be challenging in this contemporary culture. As a Wellness Specialist I assist clients in developing routines and environments, which make it easy and fun to live well. I am most often asked how to make time to fit things into already packed schedules. The first step is to assess where you are, the second is to determine your destination, and third, to create action steps to get there. There really is no finish line, so it becomes an ongoing process of growth, measured by success and a sense of peace. There are six essential elements of wellness that help in connecting all of these aspects. What you eat, and drink, how you move, breathe, think, and rest are the building blocks for your well-being.
Is there such a thing as yogic eating? Absolutely! Making healthy choices instead of convenient ones, making vegetarian, even vegan choices create a lower impact on the earth, not to mention on your digestive system. Reducing the amount of packaged foods that you consume has a two-fold benefit. You will reduce waste products in the environment, and you will consume fewer refined foods, which are full of additives and toxins. By eating locally grown whole foods, you will reduce the waste of fossil fuels from trucking in foods from afar, and will benefit local businesses. Remember there are degrees with any practice! Finding balance means beginning with a level of comfort so that one does not become discouraged and give up.
We are fortunate to have great drinking water here in St. Louis, full of minerals and not too many pollutants, although a good filtration system will help keep toxins out and minerals in. If you prefer bottled water to tap, make sure you are including a balanced mineral supplement to your half gallon per day minimum requirement. Also consider the plastic that you are using requires twice as much energy to recycle as it does to make in the first place. And imagine all the energy it requires to ship it from the hills of Tuscany or the fjord of Finland. Consider the corn syrup content of beverages before you imbibe, and the calorie content of your favorite coffee drink, which could be the hidden reason that those few extra pounds never seem to shed.
Breathing is living. When you hold your breath, you deprive your cells of necessary oxygen. It is surprising how little is taken in without conscious effort. Pranayama (in Hindu yoga) is the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises. There are many forms of meditation that can assist with breathing techniques. Bhakti yoga uses breath and sound vibration as meditation. Tara Veda meditation teaches us to use the breath as a focus. There are also kinesthetic forms of meditation like long distance running or biking. Simply using controlled breathing can assist in slowing down the mind and healing the body one ‘exhale’ at a time.
I once overheard a yogi friend use the analogy of a telephone phone book, turning one page at a time. Eventually you will get to the back cover. He was talking about Asana to someone who had difficulty with flexibility. I have watched that process in action with some of my clients over the years, and receive great personal joy in seeing them find balance, strength and flexibility through daily practice.
Yoga, Pilates, and Dance can be perfect complements to sports and athletic endeavors as well as the good old-fashioned walk. A yoga lifestyle would have you ride your bike or walk to shop local, versus driving a car to a megamart. Riding your scooter to a farmers market is a perfect example. It takes core strength and balance to ride. Your awareness is heightened by the care you must use in driving without doors for protection. You will have homegrown selections of fresh foods that you will choose for yourself when you arrive. You will notice an euphoric state beginning to envelop you as your contagious smile affects all of the people you meet. You will feel (and look) so great that you will begin to share your enthusiasm at work, at home, and in all of your relationships. Your new way of thinking will begin to creatively shape your reality. You will notice many changes begin to ripple out. So will everyone else. Namaste!