Yoga is a practice that we all can do. It starts with the breath – an extended and deeper breath. With a simple focusing of our breath, we can start on a journey that improves our well being. This breathing process helps to take us away from the flight-or-fight mode, in which many of us live everyday. Personally, I do not know anyone who is not feeling stressed, to some degree. Do you?
The other basic concepts of yoga are to “be in the moment” (leave your past and future thoughts outside the door), as well as developing the ability “to let go” – a sense of knowing that you are not in control. Yoga is a 5,000-year-old tradition with many experts in the field and volumes written about its complexities. I am not the “guru” of the yoga field, but I have practiced it for a long time, and I have incorporated yoga into the exercise routines that I have taught over the years (http://www.agelessandmoving.com/Welcome.html). My purpose here is to help people consider practicing yoga. “The Western medical world has come to acknowledge the effectiveness of yoga in managing various physical, mental and emotional illnesses to improve quality of our life” (https://divineyogabangkok.atavist.com/understanding-basic-concepts-of-yoga-).
The practice of yoga comes in so many shapes and forms. It may take a while to find the right class that works for you, or you could even research a home program or purchase a video. There are certainly advanced yogis practicing in the field and many challenging approaches available, but yoga can also be done in a chair (https://www.verywellfit.com/chair-yoga-poses-3567189). Thus, when it comes to practicing yoga, there are numerous variations and levels to choose from.
The key to yoga is to not only find the right fit for you, but to also practice yoga so that it works for you. This means you do not want to compare yourself to others, nor do you want to move in a way that is wrong for your body. Therefore, you need to be in tune to your body (and mind). This takes time to explore and discover. I recommend that if you are new to yoga, you start out slowly and mindfully – feeling comfortable to modify movements as you need to.
Knowing that yoga is a practice for so many, the following NY Times article (Jan. 19, 2019) caught my eye as it addressed an interesting concept: the “intersection” of yoga and veterans. It makes sense that yoga is a beneficial practice for post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD). After all, the foundation of yoga is a focus on our breathing – a breathing process that helps to take us away from the flight-or-fight mode. Interesting that the classic yoga positions are called warrior poses (https://www.verywellfit.com/get-fierce-with-this-sequence-of-warrior-poses-3567198). Many veterans can relate to this concept.
There are factors that yoga instructors might want to consider when teaching class participants who served in the military. One instructor gives the following advice: “For instance, I teach with my back to the door,” he said. “By allowing veterans to see the door, it gives them a little more ease in their body” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/us/yoga-veterans.html). This is good advice and it may help to have instructors thinking in these terms for all their participants – civilians and military.
For example, in interviewing various instructors who were former military personnel, one veteran instructor in California gives good advice for all yoga participants: “But the whole system of yoga is about moral and ethical restraints on behavior and trying to stay calm in challenging conditions. Sometimes in a pose you feel pain and you have to say, ‘Is that pain that is damaging or is that discomfort that I need to lean into?’ ”(https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/us/yoga-veterans.html).
Also, soldiers tend to be very good at “being in the moment.” It is part of their training and ironically this concept is part of what yoga is about. When you go to class, you want to step away from past and future thoughts. It is enlightening to hear from a former medic, who now teaches yoga in Texas, conclude: “It doesn’t matter if you are a former military vet who served four terms in Iraq or a housewife with four kids and anxiety issues. We approach those issues the same way. You think you have all this control in yoga, but it’s not about the control, it’s about kind of letting go.”
Interesting that yoga brings out a commonality in all of us. Such an old practice is not only getting our modern world healthier, but it is now bringing many different humans together in harmony. Yoga could serve as way for all of us to practice humanity in a better way. Of course, there is a website called “Yoga for Humanity” (https://www.yogaforhumanity.com/about/).
Charlotte Michos is a clinical nurse specialist who values personal-centered care and serves as a Healthcare Consultant in helping others make informed decisions. For more information and products, visit www.besthealthconsultant.com or call (845) 548-5980.
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