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Strike a Pose: Yoga's Good Exercise, No Doubt
a blog by Beth and Tami of Pulling Down the Moon
Yoga poses are a mystery in my book. We go to yoga class, stand on a mat in our bare feet and proceed to bend and twist our bodies until we take on a completely different shape. What are these shapes? Why on earth do they make us feel so good? Why are they such a gift when we are experiencing life and health challenges such as infertility?
There is a lot of information about the physiological benefits of yoga. Clearly, yoga postures are good for our bodies. Stretching tight musculature improves our posture, strengthens our digestion and makes our muscles strong and supple. Hip opening postures feed blood to the uterus and ovaries, backbends stimulate our nervous system and free our respiratory system from chronic tension, and twists “wring out” toxins and stale fluid from body tissues. But aren’t postures just physical exercise? The answer is yes, and no.
In his master work Light on Yoga, renowned yogi B.K.S. Iyengar explains that names of yoga poses are significant and symbolize the process of evolution. There are poses named for plants (tree, lotus), poses named for insects (locust, scorpion), poses named for fish, reptiles and higher mammals like dog and camel. Some are even named for legendary Hindu heroes and even gods.
The point, Iyengar says, is that while we perform yoga asana we assume many different forms, from the lowliest to the most exalted, and recognize the Universal Spirit that runs through them all. Mr. Iyengar asserts that it is this unspoken presence of the divine that begins to work on the body of the yogi, causing new discipline and spontaneous healing to occur in diet, cleanliness and character. What a fascinating thought – and how nice to think that tapping into something greater than ourselves is just a down dog away?
Over tea last week, Joyce, a fellow yoga teacher and friend, was discussing her yoga practice when she added another dimension to my musing.
“The postures,” she said, “are the constant and I am the variable. When I move into a yoga pose that I practice regularly, the pose is the same but depending on my state of mind, what I ate for dinner the night before and my present mood it’s a unique experience every time. When I am tense, my down dog is rigid. When I am sad, I am reluctant to do backbends. Because the postures encourage me to breathe and reflect, I see how my life affects my body.“
So, while in some ways these insights make the mystery even deeper, my appreciation of yoga asana is ever expanding. These insights remind me that while yoga for fertility is trendy and hip openers are indeed great for fertility, the roots of this practice run far deeper than we will ever imagine. And for this I am truly grateful.
Be present, be positive,