Category Archives: Yoga
Beginning a Daily Yoga Practice
To me, yoga can prevent or heal almost anything. It relaxes me, strengthens my muscles, builds bone, and keeps me flexible. If I’m anxious, the concentration needed to do the poses, helps me forget my troubles, and makes them easier to bear long after class is over.
Yes, of course that is an overstatement. You can also get hurt—as with any new exercise—but I’ve never experienced an injury doing yoga. The key is to compete only with your self. And remember, we call it a practice because we can never become perfect. As with any exercise, run it by your doctor before doing that first Downward Dog.
There are two ways to get started: take a class in person or use a DVD or book. I’ve done both. If you want the in-person experience, ask about the instructor. What kind of training has he had? What type of yoga does she teach? Any certifications? Talk to your friends and see if they can recommend a teacher they like?
There are several yoga DVDs I like. Patricia Walden’s “Yoga for Beginners” is excellent. Walden takes her time and allows you to try on the pose. She doesn’t hurry you. This DVD is one of the best beginner classes I’ve found for those who prefer to learn at home. Once you’ve got the basic postures down, Rod Stryker’s “Longevity” (also called “Peak Performance”) is an excellent overall body yoga workout. It has two sections, the first being somewhat challenging, the second is relaxing with a wonderful meditation. If you’ve never done any meditating, this is a great, and moving, introduction.
I’ve had very good luck with Gaiam’s yoga practices. Rodney Yee is another instructor who makes DVDs for Gaiam. He also has created meditation programs. If you’d like to try a Vinyasa (or flow yoga), Shiva Rea is very popular. Vinyasa flows a series of yoga poses which raises the heart rate. You need to be quite familiar with the asanas (postures) before attempting Vinyasa and moderately fit for this type of yoga.
For people who are 50 and up (and Boomers may already be the most fit generation as the first to embrace exercise) or younger people who haven’t done an exercise program in a long time, Jane Fonda’s “AM/PM Yoga for Beginners” is a new find. There are five segments; three for the AM and two for PM. Each practice is about 10 to 15 minutes and can be combined anyway you want or done alone. The morning practices are for Abs, Energy and Strength (she uses hand weights while doing standing yoga postures). The afternoon includes Mobility and Relaxation. Just keep in mind, Fonda is in her early 70s and she’s talking while she exercises. She’s fun and personable. While I’m an intermediate yogi, I’ve found a lot here for me. I especially enjoy the Strength segment. These are perfect length for a break during your work day.
While you only need a sticky mat for basic yoga, as you move onward in your practice you may want to add blocks for support and a strap for stretching safely. I also like Tibetan chimes (also called cymbals) which come attached to strap. The chime signals the beginning and end of your practice which can help you move into and out of the exercise. There are other chimes that are rung by a striking mallet. And I love using a singing bowl for meditation. The beautiful sound created by the bowl and its wooden mallet helps one focus when entering a meditative state.
There are two books about yoga I find very helpful. Yoga: Mastering the Basics by Sandra Anderson and Rolf Sovik, Psy.D. The book is beautifully illustrated and the yoga postures are photographed in black and white with descriptions. It also talks about breath and demonstrates using a neti pot for cleansing the sinuses.
Living Yoga by model Christy Turlington is about the yogi approach to life. Turlington has traveled extensively and this book is about her fascinating journey. She talks about the origins of yoga, pilgrimages, breath, Ayurveda and compassion to name a few. The photographs are gorgeous and her execution of the postures inspiring. My favorite chapter is about Vastu or Sacred Space and how to create it wherever you are. She says: “The Vedas accept imperfection, so in Vastu, we strive to do our best. We pay attention to the power of our environment and the needs of our dosha. If we just do this, we can create our own personal sacred space.”
Wishing you Ahimsa (no harm).
— G G Collins