Why do I practise yoga? A personal perspective

Happy New Year Everybody!

The new year begins with a guest blog post from http://alysonyoga.wordpress.com/

If anybody is interested in doing a guest blog post please get in touch via my gravitar profile or drop a note to tell me how to contact you.

Thank-you Alyson for this blog post!

Guest blog post

Yoga’s been part of my life for so long I rarely stop and think ‘What am I doing?’ or ‘Why am I doing this?’ However, in writing this guest blog post, I’ve tried to put some of it into words to explain why I practise yoga, and some of the benefits it brings me.

I’ve been practising yoga for roughly half my life, attending my first classes when I was 17. I’d dabbled earlier than that at home with Mum apparently but can remember little of that. During university my yoga practice was on and off, but for the last 11 years I have been attending yoga classes regularly, at first once weekly, then twice, then three times, and then I took the plunge and started (and completed) my yoga teacher training and have been teaching since 2008.

But why do I go to classes and practice at home? For me, if I don’t do my morning stretches I soon start stiffening up. One Christmas I had family staying and routines were abandoned. After a week my neck, shoulders and back were stiff, aching and unhappy! A few days after getting back into my routine I was fine again.

My morning routine is only about 20 minutes long and consists of basic stretches that limber up most parts of the body and joints, and it seems to be the right amount for me to keep things ticking over.

If you are struggling to implement a daily routine start small. For years I talked of doing more yoga at home but I didn’t do any. Eventually I just set the alarm five minutes earlier than usual, got up and did five minutes of stretches. Gradually I increased the time and now it’s a regular easy habit.

So, I practise daily for physical comfort.

Less noticeably, I think the benefits are a calm disposition, a more peaceful state of mind, and greater body awareness. These are some of the less tangible benefits that a yoga practice can bring.

One of the things from the yoga teacher training course which had a direct impact was the starting of a pranayama (controlled breathing) practice and diary. I tacked this onto the end of my morning routine, and it’s something I’ve (generally) kept up. We sometimes focus mainly on the physical side of yoga, the postures, but the breathing practices can be very useful, and just as illuminating as to our current state of health etc.

Likewise, I have tried to also include a short meditation into my daily session, although sometimes this is pretty short! I find the meditation to be very beneficial in helping me focus, and just to observe my current state of mind and how distracted I am.

In some ways, the benefits are often more noticeable when I’m not practising yoga. When I’m not practising, for whatever reason, I realise why I do practise!

Currently I have a foot in plaster and the enforced inactivity is a challenge. However, being able to practise just 20 minutes of stretches makes me feel better – not only physically but also mentally. And it’s amazing what you can do even with a foot in plaster!

I’m still not sure why I started practising yoga though. Unless I can recall my thoughts of my 17 year old self I’ll probably never know!

[if you want to link to my blog it’s http://alysonyoga.wordpress.com/]

CHANGE – The Day My World Got Turned Upside Down! (in a good way)

At approximately 8 am this morning a minor miracle happened (no I didn’t give birth)…

…I actually got my legs over my head in an arm balance (called peacock!).

Actually, what happened was 2 yoga teachers saw me struggling because I have NO proprioception of my legs leaving the ground WHATSOEVER and they lifted my legs over my head towards the wall.

It’s amazing how when your head is underneath your legs it feels like you’re in free fall!!

Despite support the second that they got near the wall I starting squealing and they had to lift me down again, BUT for me this was BIG!!

The last time I got my legs in the air for a handstand was when I was 12.

I was in a gym class and I hadn’t learned to roll from a handstand safely, so I just went SPLAT! On my back and winded myself really badly.

I haven’t been able to go up (side down) in the world since!

I was totally put off and always stiffen up and my breathing goes out of the window!

Obviously, it’s probably going to be sometime before I can do this by my-self, but it goes to show how – I can change! 🙂

So happy! 🙂

Some people can travel the world, but I am really more than happy to travel all around my body. I feel so lucky that I have a chance to learn these things I always wanted to do.

Not a Peacock yet, but not Advanced Hedgehog Pose either!!!

https://epilepsymeandneurology.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/epilepsy-advanced-hedgehog-pose/

Thank you Lesley and Sue! (my yoga teachers)

And Alyson http://alysonyoga.wordpress.com/ nearly forgot you not there today!

A Breath of Fresh Air – Post viral O2

There is nothing like influenza to boost catch up reading.

Ironically the book I chose to read was called ‘The Revelation of the Breath’ by Sharon G. Mijares Editor.

This collection of short essays on breathing did at least serve the purpose of ramming home to me why I was sick in the first place (unhealthy breathing patterns). It is a fabulous introduction to many breathing techniques from east to west, religious, spiritual and medical.

What I particularly liked about it was an article on breathing for Aikido by Darrell Bluhm Shihan.

I really like aikido but have never read up on it in particular because my teacher who is a bit of a traditionalist, put the emphasis on ‘doing’ not ‘reading’.

When I asked if there were any books he recommended he told me in no uncertain terms that it was practice not reading I should be concentrating on.

Fair point really.

But this book is really good  at explaining breathing techniques, their purposes and the philosophy, physiology and psychology behind them.

I was particularly taken by Buteyko for asthma, sleep and apnoea, and Rebirthing completely reframed birth trauma. The section on Freediving was quite revealing. Personally holding my breath is not an area I have ever explored (one of the diving instructors I met said that underwater diving and epilepsy aren’t a good gas and air mix).

Maybe I’ll just have to practice pausing between air intake and exhale for now. There are lots of rhythms to use after all.

Breath can be energising or relaxing, exciting or tranquil. Huffing and puffing can be quite good fun 🙂

I like that someone took the time to write about how breathing can be a revelation.

Make of it what you will I hope you enjoy this book as much as I am.

Here is a link to view it, also available from Amazon.

http://www.sunypress.edu/p-4912-the-revelation-of-the-breath.aspx