Friday, May 4, 2012

Discovering Yoga

Last week saw the commencement of term two for Yoga Barham. On ANZAC Day morning while many were attending the dawn service, I was attending Wednesday morning yoga. Earlier I had lain in bed om-ing and erring as to whether I should leave the safety and warmth of my wool doona for yoga or just roll over and go back to sleep. After a heated discussion with my conscience I made it out from under the doona and down to the former Glen Gray Furniture showroom for Mardie’s 6.30am class.

Yoga is a philosophy that began thousands of years ago in India as a way towards spiritual enlightenment. These days it is practiced as a form of gentle exercise that increases muscle strength and flexibility, circulation and calms the mind. It is an excellent tool for managing stress and anxiety in today’s busy world.

Some people confuse yoga with religion and worry that it may conflict with their own religious beliefs. Yoga is not a religion. While many world religions include yoga, yoga in itself does not include religion. It is a practice that provides a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body. It is not necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga.

Wednesday morning yoga is a new habit in my 2012 weekly schedule. I signed up at the start of the year and early February saw me attending my first hour and a half yoga class. I reasoned that anything that helps to keep stress at manageable levels and puts me even vaguely on the pathway to spiritual enlightenment can only be a good thing.

So there I was doing all those stretchy poses us yoga fans like to call asanas. It gets my whole body tingling and our Yogi Bear Mardie is excellent at explaining each movement and reminding us to synchronise our breathing for maximum benefit. I like the fact that it is all done at a beautifully calm pace so even my uncoordinated self manages to keep up (as opposed to my failed attempts at aerobics during my teenage years).

The final half hour of yoga class is spent in Yoga Nidra or Yoga Nap as I like to call it. It is by far my favourite part of the class. We lie on our mats, close our eyes and listen to Mardie’s soothing voice as she guides us through a series of relaxation techniques until we are totally relaxed. The idea is to reach a state of deep relaxation while remaining conscious; like enjoying the benefits of deep sleep without the sleep bit. In the world of massage therapy this is known as the alpha state where the client feels completely relaxed but still aware of what is going on around them.

My ninety-minute escape from the world goes all too fast and suddenly Mardie is reminding us that it is Wednesday morning and the class is drawing to a close. Out into the day we go… Om Om Om.

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