January 8th Small Stone
Poses tire my body,
breathing relaxes my mind,
so I can sink down
into my soul
to find peace.
Yoked, once again.
A year ago today I took my first beginner yoga class at the Yoga4All studio in Seminole, FL. Had Googled ‘Zumba classes’ and found one there. Unfortunately Zumba was cancelled due to low participation, but their website offered a free beginner’s class the last Saturday of each month. Decided to try it because so many people have said over time, “You should try yoga. You’d love it!” When that class was over, I knew it was exactly what I needed. Took the full beginner’s series in April and May and then started taking random classes with different teachers to find a home. One Sunday last June I was on my laptop and something said ‘Go to yoga!’ so I went to an 11 a.m. heated flow class (yes, heated yoga in June in FL) and met a teacher named Lisa. She greeted me with, “You haven’t been to this class before have you?” I said, “No.” She replied, “Well, I’m teaching something different today.” While she had taught yoga for many years, she had just been certified in Kundalini yoga and was excitedly introducing it that day.
The beauty of Kundalini yoga is that it really focuses on breath work, as well as poses (or kriyas as they’re called), to move energy up the spine. It works with the energy fields of the chakras, much like acupuncture does, to break up blockages and improve the flow of energy from the base of your spine (1st chakra) up to the top of your head (7th or crown chakra). It is amazing!
Another thing Lisa learned as a Kundalini teacher is how to perform a Gong meditation. She held her first one on the 2010 Summer Solstice. I’d never been to anything like it. Gong vibrations are intensely healing. If this sounds too weird, think of music. Music is a joy to all humans. It heals and connects people. Remember any great concert you’ve been to and the ‘natural high’ you felt afterwards. Well, the Gong makes a sound and vibration that feels ‘like home.’ Lisa holds one every month and I’ve been to all of them. I absolutely love the Gong meditation:)
It’s remarkable the number of health benefits yoga provides besides handling basic stress and mild depression like all exercise does. There have been a number of research studies that show it improves memory as well as prevents and treats certain diseases. It fascinates me how doing certain kriyas for 2 – 3 minutes, which is way harder than you think, and breathing in various ways (deep, alternate nostril, fast belly breathing called ‘breath of fire’) can actually accomplish this, but it does. I feel at peace, centered and almost blissful after I do yoga. Here’s a short YouTube video as an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1n6F68NG7M&feature=related
Lisa has a saying I love: “Yoga connects you to the You that existed before your birth certificate was printed and the You that will continue to exist after your death certificate is printed.” Call it your soul, whatever you want, that’s what it taps. The kriyas tire the body and quiet the mind so that when you get to the meditation, they don’t fight you. You’re ready to sink into just being.
It’s not a religion and there are many different forms. It does support whatever religion you ascribe to by making you more spiritual, but it doesn’t replace it. Just like religion provides a basis for hope and faith for life, yoga connects you with your core self regardless of what else is going on. It is an awesome way to deal with grief or crisis; anything that makes you feel out of control. Control is really just an illusion. You realize you don’t have control when someone you love dies, lose a job, go through a divorce, etc. But it doesn’t even have to be that dramatic … it could also help a mother whose last child goes to college to remember who she is. It connects you to the You that isn’t attached to a position title or any other role like wife, mother, daughter, sister or husband, father, son, brother.
So Marty, owner of Yoga4All, and Lisa, Kundalini teacher extraordinaire, this post is for you:) Thank you for providing me with the vehicle I needed to stay strong and positive during a challenging year! I believe that “We find what we need when we need it” and I thank God for leading me to you.
Any yogi who’s reading, please comment on what you love about yoga, what kind you do, why you love it, how it makes you feel and if it’s helped you with any major health issues. I envision a future where we have our kids do yoga to treat ADHD, rather than take drugs, and where the coolest companies offer yoga to their overworked employees!