Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 20th 2014 Contents | SERIOUSLY? |
SOMEWHERE at the intersection where stress,
boredom and curiosity met, I decided to try yoga.
My children had done it at preschool and seemed
to enjoy it. My friends were touting its benefits,
from beauty treatment to digestive aid. And the
Internet was awash with free yoga apps. So, why
A year later, my stress levels are reduced, I have
unearthed my amazing ability to touch my toes
without tipping over, and my yogic breathing al-
lowed me to bear the excruciating pain of my lat-
est tattoo without screaming, punching the tattoo
artist, or fainting.
I have not developed the ability to juggle tennis
balls with my feet while in a headstand, but I be-
lieve there are benefits to yoga, nonetheless. While
I haven't exactly appointed myself ambassador pro
tempore of yoga, I'd like to share with you a few
things I have learned.
Know your limits
I am old enough to remember Sesame Street
episodes numbered in single digits. I watched the
Challenger explode. I waved Free Mandela posters
at the Queen. I saw Stephen Lee Heung's Paradise
Lost cross the stage. I am no spring chicken. I'm
more like a late-autumn grouse that would need
an extra 20 minutes in the oven.
When you add my question-mark-shaped spine
into that equation, you will understand why I ap-
proach yoga knowing that there are several posi-
tions I will never achieve. If you have problems with
a body part, don't attempt any positions that put
stress on that part. Simple, no?
Progress is slow; keep at it
Many yoga positions have easy, moderate and ad-
vanced poses. Start off slowly. Your body needs
time to adjust and become more flexible. I still can't
coax my legs into a full lotus, and I'm okay with
that. I'm not a human pretzel.
And while we're at it, yoga is a very personal ex-
perience. What others can achieve has nothing to
do with you; just do your best, and they will do
theirs. Pain has no place in yoga. Neither does jeal-
You should know by now that I'm a fashion Grinch
who favours comfort over style. This is no time to
be rocking your brands (unless your brands are
perfect for yoga). Wear something stretchy, and
which will move with you. Too loose and they will
pool around you the moment you become inverted.
Too tight, and you will need the Jaws of Life to pry
you out of certain positions.
Take a class
Some of the apps and videos out there are excel-
lent, and there are a few I swear by. But trust me,
there is SOMETHING you are doing wrong, and
only a flesh and blood instructor can spot it and
correct you. This will save you from injury, and help
you get the full benefit of your workout.
Take a shower before you start
Okay, this is a personal foible of mine, but I'll share
it anyway. Why bother to bathe before a workout
that's going to make you so hot and sweaty that
you'll still have to hit the showers again afterward?
Because yoga is about peace, serenity, comfort
and self-centring. You can do that a whole lot bet-
ter after you have washed away the cares of your
day. Essential oils are nice, too.
Leave your prejudices outside, with your shoes
In my opinion, yoga gets a bad rap. With all due re-
spect to everyone's beliefs, a lot of people express
an interest in trying it, but hold back because they
don't understand the spiritual implications of yoga.
But there are many schools to yoga, many genres,
and many practices. For some, it may be a spiritual
experience, for others, just a chance to extend the
limits of their body and mind.
As for the chanting of mantras, I myself have never
chanted, not because I feel any particular way
about what the words may or may not mean, but
because I'm just too lazy to learn them.
Sometimes, yoga for me is hard slogging. Some-
times I have to resist the urge to give up when my
knees start to tremble or my elbows threaten to
buckle under my weight. But most of the time, it's
Occasionally, I get the sensation of extreme light-
ness, like I'm a warm puff of air beginning to rise. I
have come to understand that that is the feeling
of my worries, my tension, my stress, releasing
their grip on my soul, so that it floats. Just like it
was meant to. I let go of the sandbags I've been
keeping a tight grip on, and become weightless.
You can, too. So get your yoga on!
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