My Appreciation for the Practice of Yoga
I’ve been practicing yoga for more than 20 years. It’s more than just an exercise for me; it’s a way to open up the constrictions of my body and my mind at the same time. I appreciate that yoga is not always about rules or organized movement, but more about a freedom of movement that honors my body’s needs at that moment. I’ve found that practicing yoga is great practice for life. Through yoga I’ve learned a familiar respect for all the moving parts in my life—the stress, restriction and strain caused by life’s challenges, and then the openness, relaxation and flexibility that comes from navigating those challenges.
After two decades, yoga elicits such a sense of calm in me that I feel its effect even before I begin. I’m like Pavlov’s dog, without the bell … and the drool. I just slip off my shoes and roll out my mat, and I’m halfway to the zone that (I’ll admit) I struggled to achieve as a fledgling yogi. If you’re still in those first, exploratory days of yoga practice, stick with it. It gets easier, and sometimes harder. Either way, it’s lovely.
You see, with yoga there’s no end to the journey. That’s why it’s the ideal vehicle to take me into my later years. Not only will it support whatever new physical activities I choose to do, but it will keep me growing mentally and spiritually, benefits far beyond increased flexibility and strength.
These days, during different yoga poses, I affirm and give gratitude to the perfect (and imperfect) parts of my body. I give understanding to my wrists, which sometimes ache while in downward dog, and love to my hips and lower back as they open up during deep stretches. I open my heart with sun salutations and sympathize with my head as I feel the stress release. Then I give myself a pat on the back (figuratively—I’m not that flexible) for being on the mat again, keeping a promise to myself.
For this special “yoga edition” of Natural Awakenings, many local yogis share their wisdom, which is as unique as their classes and studios. We talked to practitioners like Kat Mansfield, who fuses yoga with other arts, like Nia (page 27), and Kelli Pencourt, who describes her “off the mat” practice on page 37. Let them inspire you—and then let our Yoga Glossary guide you to a class that resonates with you.