|Yoga is meditation. What I get from this yoga is the daily meditation so vital for a healthy mind and body. I used to run for hours to get into the “meditation zone”. With this yoga, I’m meditating right from the very first breathing exercise. Following along with the dialogue and focusing on your breath, you will naturally fall into a state of meditation for the duration of the 90 minutes. All the while, you are physically stretching every part of your body.|
|The power of the core
When I started this yoga back in 2006, I could not lock my knee. My knee would hyper-extend since I never even attempted to lock it in any other exercise. I did not have a solid core strength, and consequently I could not raise my leg in head-to-knee for the first two years of my practice. But if you practice regularly with intensity and precision, there is absolutely no doubt that you will overcome every weakness in the body and mind. Slowly, I built the core strength required to balance on a locked-out knee. After that, the full potential of the standing balancing series opened up to me, and everything in my practice began to elevate. Such a powerful part of the class, because the mental tools you must develop to achieve these postures are so incredibly useful in your everyday life. Breathing through the nose, calming the mind in times of stress, and intense focus are extremely useful techniques when faced with obstacles of a typical modern lifestyle, in addition to the unwelcome and inevitable crisis that every one of us experiences at some stage in our lives.
|Why I don’t do hip-openers, or back-bends on the wall
The series is specifically designed to open the body slowly and naturally as it is ready. It’s not about getting into the full expression of the postures as quickly as you can. It’s not a competition with yourself or anybody else. Yoga is about patience. It is about feeling the full benefits of every posture right off the bat… from the first day of your practice regardless of how far into the postures your body can go. I used to have awful back problems – lower back pain as a result of my long torso and all the sport I used to play. I could not sleep well before I began this yoga. I don’t do hip-openers or backbends on the wall, my spine is opening slowly and naturally with a regular yoga practice, and it feels great.
|Balance the mind, the body will follow
Although I was fit, I just could not seem to figure out how to use my core muscles adequately to do the standing balancing series. In standing bow, I could not even raise my foot over my head before I fell out of the posture. It wasn’t long before I realised that the source of my imbalance was not physical, rather mental in nature. I could not control the many random thoughts that typically plague the western mind, and obscure our ability to focus. You can not balance the body without first balancing the mind. For me, the balancing series is about letting go of the endless daily stresses and clearing a mental path for concentration. First focus on the breath, that is easy to start with both because it is a regular pattern and because it is constant- two key ingredients for meditation. If your primary goal is the focus on your breath each time you come into practice, and if you practice regularly, you will learn to balance the mind rapidly; within a few weeks.
|The miracle of healing
A typical youth, I played a lot of sport growing up. Basketball and American football are both hard on the joints and a lot of wear-and-tear on the muscles. After university, upon entering a typical adulthood lifestyle, my exercise regiment evolved into the solitary sports of mountain biking and trail-running. All of these activities render one prone to injuries and I acquired many along the way. The body tends to compensate for an injury, utilising surrounding muscles or ligaments to buffer the damaged area from use to allow time to heal. However more serious injuries tend to linger on because the body part then becomes under-used, while the surrounding parts are over-used for movement outside of their designed purpose. The yoga brings these old injuries to the surface; the postures, done correctly, force you to work those under-used parts, which initially may be uncomfortable. The degree of discomfort, I have found, typically reflects the degree of damage to that area of the body. When I went to the teacher training, back in 2011, we had to do two classes a day for 9 weeks- each class intensely focusing on doing the postures correctly. On old injury resurfaced, and I was in a lot of pain. I pushed through all of the pain, in the training and then over the next 9 or so months of continual practice after the training. In fact I did not even teach over that period as I was focused on understanding how the yoga affects injury. I knew the nature of this particular injury but not its extent. In the winter of 2002 I had a bad fall while training for a race. I was running late one night on a trail when I slipped on ice. My body landed squarely on a fallen tree, which was lying next to the trail. One hip hit the tree so hard, my torso slightly maligned; this immediately put pressure on tendons in my knee as I walked, and of course while running. I began to compensate, altering my gate with a slight twisted movement. Over time I learned to run and walk slightly awry which was close enough not to notice, but far enough from normal to create damage to the other areas of the knee eventually into my hip. Throughout the 10 or so years before I went to the yoga training, in any exercise or activity I was able to use the compensated areas of the knee and surrounding muscles without too much discomfort. However doing the yoga correctly for 9 weeks brought out the injury and created a great deal of pain. Of course I questioned the healing properties of the yoga, but continued to practice everyday. I went to an osteopath who helped re-align the hips, but there was still a lot of pain. I pushed through the pain, until one day in Triangle pose I heard a click in my knee and felt an immense relief. Doing the separate-leg series on the carpet, as we did in training, forced the inner thighs to strengthen, which is crucial for keeping my hips in alignment.
Immediately following the standing series a long savasana helps me calm the mind and body, facilitating a natural descend into deeper meditation. Two minutes of silence to focus on the breath and clear the mind of thought. The mind can disassociate itself with the body, which I find to be at one time, both invaluable for mental health and difficult to achieve. The desire to leave the room and cool the body down dissipates into complete relaxation.
|Strengthening the spine|
|Deepest backward bend|
|The journey continues|