Developing Your Yoga Practice – How I Got Started
My introduction to yoga came about five years ago when I went to a class at my local YMCA. Immediately I liked the stretching, as a runner, I had very tight hamstrings. Also as a runner, and I don’t know if all of you are the same, I have an overactive mind. So the sitting, counting of breaths, balance poses all helped to calm my mind.
I was learning to salsa dance at the same time. I was driving all over the city trying to find classes/partners/clubs etc. All that driving on top of an already busy commuting lifestyle was stressing me out!!! Though I didn’t quite realize it at the time.
So one night I went to a local yoga studio in San Pedro, and took a class. There I met my teacher, Rosie Good. Soon after, I began going to yoga classes instead of dance classes, and began to find some peace from my crazy life at the time. But more than anything, I began to feel comfortable in my own skin. And I began growing spiritually.
This to me is what we learn from yoga practice.
Yoga goes back centuries, certainly hundreds of years before Christ, and maybe much further than that. The first written record of yoga as a system was recorded by a scholar and teacher named Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra, written about the second century B.C.
Yoga is not a religion. Rather yoga is better viewed as a science of transformation. The transformation you will experience from your yoga practice is learning about and manifesting your true self. That true self according to the yogic texts is your spiritual self, the Atman. Because yoga is not a religion, it can be practiced by any religion, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. In fact, you will find, as you practice more and more yoga, that it deepens what religious faith that you have.
There are many different definitions of yoga but the one I love the most is Union. The very word “yoga” refers to this as the root “yuj” meaning unity or Yoke. We are always trying to unify in our practice, our goal is to get two or more things working together peacefully and elegantly.
That is why in our classes the teacher will constantly remind you to breathe and to move with your breath. This is an important point. Yoga is not just physical exercise. The poses, called Asanas, are only one of eight parts of the royal yoga path. In Los Angeles there are many teachers and schools and even the media likes to portray yoga as exercise. You can understand why when you see the bodies of Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, and Jennifer Lopez, all yoga practitioners. And while you will lose weight, gain muscle, and improve your body through yoga, this is not the goal.
The ancient texts all teach us that we should practice our yoga throughout our day. Not just on the mat or after a long run. And I have two simple exercises that will help you with that.
1. Set your intention. Before you do anything, wash the dishes, walk the dog, work on a computer, go for a run, take a second to set your intention. Take a deep breath or two, and ask yourself or God, what would you like to accomplish before you take the action. Then close your eyes, and visualize that manifesting. Examples of intentions could include: a clean kitchen, fresh air, having fun, writing a poem, or improving your arm swing (ChiRunning). Then keep that goal in mind as you do your action. Your mind will drift. You will get distracted. But just keep returning to your intention. Then do what it takes to finish the action. Don’t quit. Never give up. As Steve’s teacher tells him, “If you fall off the bike, just get back on”. So when we unify our intentions with our actions we are practicing yoga.
2. Tune into your breathing. Just take long slow deep breaths continuously throughout the day. Especially when you are doing exercise. And start to turn your mind’s attention to your breath instead of to all your mind waves (chitta vrittis). When we do this, we are practicing yoga. Yes, yoga can be that simple.
The poses are fantastic also. Patanjali also taught us that by calming our bodies through the poses, we calm our breath and our minds. Then we can sit quietly and observe who we really are.
So for this reason, be sure to attend a yoga class once a week. Look around, visit different studios and teachers, until you walk into an ashram (place of teaching) speak to the teacher, and immediately get a deep sense of love and belonging, and this is where you should learn and practice. Keep on looking you will find it.
p.s. If you liked this post please do one of two things for me ok?
a. Go to one of Rosie Good’s classes at Yoga Bindu in San Pedro.
b. Please a comment saying “What does Yoga mean to You?”