|I love to meet new people and learn about their lives and their passions! While meeting a new friend for coffee the other day, she shared with me that she doesn't practice yoga because 'she sucks at it', to which I replied ' That's impossible, you CAN'T suck at yoga!'. To be 'good' at yoga, you don't need to be flexible, or strong, or injury free. It doesn't matter if you are 13 or 75, large or small, short or tall, or if you are male or female. Anyone can do yoga!!! Let me explain...|
The root word of yoga is 'yuj' which literally means 'to yoke'. A translation often extracted from this is 'to unite' or 'to join'. Yoga unites! There are many ways to interpret this - union of breath and body, union of mind, body, and spirit, union with all living beings, union with the earth and our environment, union with divine energy, and the list goes on. Nothing is separate. Yoga brings us to this understanding through a very palpable experience.
So how did union with our heart get translated into pretzel postures? Simple. Asana (the physical practice of yogic postures) is one of the eight limbs of yoga, and probably the most accessible to our North American culture. We can use our physical body as a tool to connect to our deeper layers that are sometimes inaccessible to the conscious mind. We can move energy. We can release tension. We can sharpen our senses. We can de-stress.
We are more than just a physical body, but we need to BE embodied in order to access the rest. This is my experience. When I began my journey into yoga nine years ago, I saw it as just another way to 'work out'. I felt better after yoga than I ever had working out but I couldn't put my finger on why. It wasn't just that I felt stronger, or more flexible, or more energized, or more grounded - although these are all wonderful benefits of yoga! I felt more connected to myself, more tuned-in to my life, more inspired, naturally joy-filled. I felt AWAKE in my life! My focus shifted. I could concentrate easily. My relationships improved. My life transformed. The shift is subtle, but powerful beyond rational measure.
As a yoga teacher now, my goal is to inspire my students to get a 'work-IN'! through yoga. The physical effects such as more strength and flexibility are just the icing on the cake, but not the point. Yoga helps you to be more flexible in your life, not just your body. The practice encourages strength of heart more importantly than strong muscles. Can you touch your toes? It doesn't matter! Can you wrap your ankle behind your head? Who cares? If you are present in the moment, if you are breathing, if you are listening to the innate wisdom of your body...this is yoga. You can practice on the mat AND in your life!
There is yoga for everyone and every-BODY. So many styles and teachers. So many modifications for each posture. Can't touch the floor? - let's bring the floor up to you with blocks or chairs! Can't reach your toes? Let's get a strap to make that easier. Are you injured? No problem, there are so many modifications to keep you feeling comfortable and pain free. It's not about bending and breaking your body to conform into physical shapes. That's not yoga. If you show up on mat willing to try, open hearted, breathing deeply, present, then you are not only GOOD at yoga, you are GREAT at it!
For me, the support of a yoga community (sangha) is paramount. There is something so powerful about a room full of people moving and breathing together. If you feel shy around others or just can't find a schedule that works for your life at this time, you can do private classes on your own schedule. Your teacher will customize a program that is right for you, your life and your body!
When I'm not practicing as a naturopathic doctor, I teach yoga to groups or individuals. It is so rewarding to witness people coming more fully into their bodies, and themselves! In the therapeutic private yoga classes I teach, the wisdom and philosophy of yoga is combined with the science and philosophy of naturopathic medicine to specifically address the patients’ physical, mental, and emotional health concerns through a tailored yoga practice. Specific practices can be designed for health conditions and dis-ease including stress and fatigue, headaches and migraines, insomnia, anxiety and depression, menopause, PMS, hypertension and heart disease, attention deficit/hyperactivity, chronic pain syndromes, hyper mobility or joint laxity, scoliosis, injury prevention and rehabilitation, as well as for performance enhancement.
It's been said that 'practice makes perfect'. I disagree. The practice of yoga reminds you that you are ALREADY perfect, already whole, just as you are, in this moment. We get on our mats, connect with our breath, and move our bodies in order to REMEMBER. Our natural state of being is joy-full and peace-full. Yoga is the experience of reconnecting to this essence. Ready to practice? What have you got to lose in comparison to what you could find?
Laura is a licensed naturopathic doctor and certified yoga instructor. Her naturopathic practice Awaken Wellness Within is located in the heart of downtown Collingwood. She can be found teaching yoga at Buddha Rider Yoga & Cycle studio.
"As a naturopathic doctor, through education, empowerment, and example, I endeavour to guide patients toward manifesting optimal health and living their most inspired life!"
Laura Vanderaa, CYT BSc ND