In a recent Globe newspaper interview an instructor says, “tai chi is the only thing you can do for the rest of your life.” Not true!
Yoga that respects your current health and fitness levels is a practice that spans a lifetime: An intelligent yoga practice adjusts with you and with the challenges that life throws your way. Yoga can work powerfully when done according to your body and breath: it does not require great strength or flexibility… but it can build those for you.
Traditionally, a yoga practice is developed for each individual – for their specific health and fitness levels and taking into account any other circumstances. However, we are much more familiar with group classes and indeed a group could provide more spirit and encouragement. Yet having a small number per yoga class is important… and to some extent, the make-up of that group should dictate the yoga content.
Pain, and any aggravation at all in a yoga practice means that it’s actually not yoga. A yoga practice works within the boundaries of limitations and by respecting the body’s messages, it can very gradually move our boundaries.
Also, we learn to leave our demanding / ambitious / competitive spirit at the door and we bring to the practice as much of our mind’s focus that we can. Then, a good yoga session helps the mind to focus on the movement so that the seemingly unceasing thoughts abate… and we can find equanimity for a little while. Over time, that equanimity builds in the practice and outside of the practice.
We don’t always know if and when we will need more strength or balance, yet if we practice appropriate yoga for our circumstances, we are building those potentials well. And since yoga can be adapted for any stage of life, we can always be empowered to make a difference for ourselves.
When searching for the ideal yoga teacher or yoga class for you, the following criteria will help to discover the yoga that will support you through life: one that is adaptable for all of your circumstances.
- Do you feel welcome and valued
- Does the teacher understand how to modify all of the postures in the class
- Do you feel good doing the yoga, especially once you are familiar with it
- For the most part, is your breath steady and smooth during and after the class
- Do you feel refreshed or depleted… no beneficial class will leave you depleted
- Is there attention to the function of the posture as well as the form
- Is there a way to develop a personal practice from what is learned in the class and from the teacher
If you can breathe, you can do yoga. If you want to do the yoga, it will benefit you.