Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guest Blogger Tuesday! (Updated!)

Have you ever considered trying out a yoga class?  Or even a yoga dvd?  Well, you're in luck!  Today's guest blog is all about being a yogi!  This week's lovey lady isn't just an avid practicer of yoga (I can attest to this: when she came to stay with us for the wedding the first question she asked was if there was a good place near our apartment where she could practice yoga during the week) and teacher, she's also my wonderfully fabulous sister in law!  So read on to find out more about her journey with yoga, and be sure to leave any questions you may have in the comments.

Even the cats practice yoga!
As an eleven-year yogi and a 4-year yoga instructor, I can’t help but smile whenever someone asks, “Isn’t yoga just a lot of stretching?”   There are as many variations of yoga as there are flavors of ice cream.   Some yoga styles, like Hatha Yoga and Iyengar Yoga, concentrate mainly on the expression of different postures.   Other flavors, such as Ashtanga Yoga, focus on moving repeatedly through a sequence of poses.  I practice (and teach) Vinyasa Yoga, which emphasizes synchronizing the breathe with movement.

I didn’t pick up yoga on my own.   It was actually my mom who introduced me to yoga and inspired me to keep practicing.  She had an old video called “The Method Yoga,” which we would watch together and laugh.  Eventually my mom embraced other challenges, but I loved the video and continued practicing throughout high school and college.  By the time I entered graduate school at Washington State University, I was ready to try something different, so I signed up for a Yolates class.  The combination yoga/pilates class inspired me to learn as much as I possibly could about everything yoga.
Bound Extended Angle
To answer the question asked by many curious potential yogis, no, yoga isn’t just stretching (unless you want to spend your practice stretching).  Yoga is a mind-body experience that strengthens, challenges, and stretches the body.   Like anything worth doing, yoga takes practice, which is why the act of doing yoga is called a practice.   In Vinyasa Yoga, every movement is synchronized with a breath.  There are hundreds of postures that can be practiced individually or in a flowing series of poses.  Each posture offers unique physiological benefits and when practiced in sequence, an unmatched cardiovascular challenge.

My love for yoga comes from the joy of the practice and the deep sense of accomplishment that follows every final relaxation (a short period of meditation at the end of a yoga session).  Vinyasa Yoga is difficult; don’t be fooled by people who claim that, “yoga is easy.”  Those people probably aren’t practicing yoga correctly.  True Vinyasa Yoga challenges the mind, the body and the breath.  I suppose the feeling I experience after yoga is equivalent to a “runners high,” except I never leave my mat.  And rather than feeling achy after a long run or walk, an hour of Vinyasa Yoga is both intrinsically and extrinsically restorative.   With the exception of one or two practices (where I was nursing serious shoulder injuries), I have never felt worse after a yoga session.
Dancer Pose - Oliver likes to sit on my mat just to make sure I'm practicing the postures correctly.
Part of my joy for yoga comes from sharing my passion with others.   I love teaching Vinyasa Yoga.   It’s amazing to watch people who know nothing about yoga evolve into true yogis.  I’ve been fortunate enough to teach just about every demographic, and I consider the opportunity to share my practice with others an honor.   My favorite part of teaching yoga is watching the self-discovery that occurs in new yoga practitioners.   The deeper my students delve into yoga, the more cognizant they become of their own bodies, abilities, and limitations.  Being part of that discovery process is enlightening.   It reminds me of my own struggles and triumphs, my own aptitudes and shortcomings.   In yoga philosophy, self-awareness is a fundamental stepping-stone to inner peace, a state of mind I think most people strive to achieve.

I could probably spend hours on a soapbox ranting about the awesomeness of yoga, but the best plug is to encourage everyone to sign up for a class and try it out.  I’ve recently fallen in love with BikramAshtanga Yoga practiced at 100°F for 90 minutes.  I’m also a huge fan of PowerYoga, a Vinyasa Yoga hybrid often offered at local gyms or community centers.   Like I said before, yoga takes practice.  It takes time to learn the postures and the breathing.  Patience, endurance, and perseverance are essential for building a personal yoga practice.  So go out, try a yoga class, and hopefully the next time someone asks, “Isn’t yoga just a lot of stretching?” you’ll be able to answer that question with a knowing smile.  ~Namaste.

Those are some impressive postures, right?  Interested in being a future guest blogger?  Email me or leave a comment!  I'd love to share your insights on my blog!

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