I ordered a new yoga dvd the other day and I was so excited to try it out. I exercise a lot, but usually stick to aerobics, stepping, weights and the like. I do it partly to keep myself healthy (I have many genetic predispositions that make exercise a must) and partly to stay sane. I find that, no matter how much I don't feel like exercising, I feel better when I do, both mentally and physically. I also occasionally slip in a yoga workout when I have time. Yoga can be very relaxing. It encourages me to focus on my breathing, the alignment of not just my body, but my body, mind and spirit and it improves circulation and flexibility. It also seems to help me to stay in the present moment rather than thinking of all of the things I haven't done, still have to do, wished I didn't have to do, yada, yada, yada. It really is almost impossible to think about all of that stuff when you are busy trying to twist your body into a shape that looks more like a snack food than anything human.
So anyway, while I know little about yoga, I do enjoy the dvd's I already have and figured it was about time for a new one. This new dvd is a vinyasa-style yoga workout. Vinyasa, hatha, power yoga, whatever - it sounded good to me. Well, it turns out that there is a lot to know about yoga and I know even less than I thought. Not really sure what the heck was going on in this vinyasa-style dvd (it looked more like a combination of modern and pole dancing than it did yoga), I decided perhaps I'd better look into this yoga thing. There is a wealth of information on-line of course, and through it I learned that there are many branches of yoga, just one of which focuses on the combination of breathing and asanas (physical postures). Within this one branch of yoga that focuses on the physical postures there are many variations. What I was familiar with was hatha yoga - a form that stresses breathing combined with physical postures that are moved into slowly and held for a period of time. Vinyasa yoga involves almost constant movement, flowing from one pose into another. Within the vinyasa-style yoga category there are several varieties as well. The one I had chosen was designed to keep the body moving slowly and gracefully in a manner akin to waves - ocean waves, sound waves, etc. Ahhhhhhhhhh........sounds relaxing doesn't it? Well, it wasn't what I was expecting. I am trying to keep an open mind though and to give the dvd another shot or two before I package it back up and return it. If I get the hang of it, it might prove to be useful. It just doesn't look promising so far. All those rippling, curving and arching movements don't come naturally to my stiff, middle-aged spine. But it never hurts to try right? Well honestly, it does hurt a bit, but I'm hoping it will get easier.
Well, what have I learned from this? The practice of yoga can be a powerful way of improving strength, flexibility and the ability to relax. It can help us to build a better mind-body awareness also. But there are as many types of yoga as there are people and to really get anything out of it, I may need to learn more. If you're interested in learning more also there are many good yoga books to check out. There are also yoga magazines with Yoga Journal being the most familiar. See the sidebar under RESOURCES for a list of helpful websites too.