Four Ways Yoga is Not Just About Flexibility

Sometimes you hear that yoga is only for the really flexible or for people who are already in great shape. Of course this isn't true but the media and advertisements do a great job of mostly showing people in really great shape bending themselves into poses that the average person may never achieve. That can lead you to feel that yoga is not for normal people and certainly not for you. I am here to tell you that yoga can be for anyone.

Most people probably hear yoga and think of a fast moving vinyasa or a sweaty hot yoga class filled with Sanskrit words and bendy bodies. The beautiful thing about yoga, that I love, is the fact you can modify a class and participate seated in a chair, lying down in bed, or even slow it down to a pace that is manageable for you. Here are some other types of practice that could be used in creating a balanced practice or practiced on their own.

Restorative Practice: If you're like me and work, have kids, and are stressed all the time you might hear the words restorative and think, sign me up! I love a restorative practice because it can help relieve the effects of chronic stress, fill your energy reservoirs, and it can be practiced by most people very easily. A restorative practice uses props to help make the poses easier and help align your body without being stressful. The practice is very slow allowing for 5-10 minutes per pose so that your body can truly relax into each pose and receive the full benefits.

Vinyasa/Asana Practice: Vinyasa means "putting together or connecting". I can be considered a moving meditation that connects the poses through the breath. Ideally your vinyasa practice wouldn't be striking individual poses but would be laced together through transitions that make sense and work with your body. A balanced asana practice could include seated breath postures, vinyasa to warm the body, an asana practice (including standing postures, forward folds, twists, and backbends), and Savasana. The practice can flow at a slower rate or move at a fast pace. If you're interested in a full practice that integrates these different pieces I recommend looking into different studios and teachers to find options that match your personality and needs.

Pranayama Practice: Prana means "life force" and Yama means "to control". Pranayama is one of the most ancient and authentic forms of yoga and works to control the breath. A regular Pranayama practice can help oxygenate the tissues of the body and balance hormonal levels and brain chemistry. A daily breath practice can help energize or calm the body and mind. It would be advised to try a breath practice in a safe space where you can experience its effects on your body and mind. If adverse reactions are experienced you would want to back off and re-approach at a later date. Adverse reactions could include things like headaches, increased stress or irritability, (sometimes triggered by the surfacing of suppressed emotions), or other physical discomfort. Most side effects will likely not last long but if they do you would want to consult with your physician and work with a yoga teacher that has a strong knowledge of Pranayama.

Meditation Practice: Meditation means "to focus one's thoughts on, reflect on, or ponder over as to deepen understanding. The aim of most meditation is to come to a clearer truth of self. Meditation can be done in a seated position, by using words/phrases that are repeated to focus the mind, or through chanting. Some people better relax through guided imagery or through a prayer practice. Even as a busy person I have made a minimum five minutes of practice a part of my evening routine and I would recommend anyone give that a try. There are great apps but my favorite is Calm because it's an app but also available online if you don't have a smartphone.

Have you participated in any of these types of practice? Do the classes you participate in include some of these elements? What is your favorite part of your yoga practice? Is it the movement, meditation, or Savasana?

Think Yoga Teacher Training might be for you? There are so many different trainings available but the one I chose is at Bodhi Yoga in Provo, UT. Check out the details and let me know if you have any questions. I'm happy to discuss my experience and why I chose Bodhi over other trainings that were much closer to home.


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