Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Yoga Works

Have you ever come to yoga class with a particular concern or issue - tight hamstrings, sore back, whatever - only to one day notice it no longer troubles you? And have you ever noticed that your concern or issue was not the same as that of the person next to you, but that he or she has also seen relief from their concern? And yet, both of you were practicing the same sequences, with its variations, class after class?

How does that work?

Well, even though you practice yoga in an all-levels group setting, yoga is still personalized.

Yoga asanas (postures) have basic shapes and structures - or alignment principles - and so these become the basis of the practice. But, our bodies are each unique - as are our needs and abilities - so each posture is modified to meet the individual.

Likewise, yoga asana sequences are created and adapted to meet the needs of the individual student while simultaneously benefitting the class as a whole. The clearest example that many of you who attend class have experienced is when one of our pregnant ladies pops up! Ever notice how the sequence changes? How we avoid deep twists? How we don't go onto our bellies for back bends? In this case the sequence is adapted for the pregnant women, and yet you too get immense benefit as we focus on back-strengthening and hip-opening movements.

There's also the hands-on assisting. As the teacher, I customize the practice in three ways:

1. Communication. You talk to me about your experience of what is going on in the posture with your body;

2. Observation. I observe your body up close, and with gentle hands-on assists you and I discover your personal, safe alignment based on how your joints, bones, tendons and muscles work; and

3. Modification. Based on 1 and 2, we modify the posture to your specific, individual needs so that you get the most benefit from it!

This is how two people can have completely different physical situations and still - in practicing the same sequence - address and resolve their concerns, develop their practice, discover their grace and power.

Within the context of a group class, we use modifications of postures and sequences, observation, communication and hands-on assisting to make sure each posture is specifically tailored to you!

And that's how yoga works!

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