Modern day Yoga is the practice of techniques to bring a person to balance, equanimity and wholeness through integrating mind, body and breath. From this practice there can be other benefits as well, such as weight loss, increased strength and flexibility, better focus, more awareness, better digestion, better sleep, improved mood and even enlightened experiences of unity. A typical Yoga class consists of mainly physical postures designed in a sequence to effect every aspect of the human form; circulation, digestion, lymphatic system, mental focus, breathing, alignment, parasympathetic system, strength, and flexibility. Most modern day yoga classes gear their sequences towards the needs of the modern day yogi, which is usually comprised of people who sit at a desk for 8 hours a day staring at a computer screen.
Since Yoga’s introduction to the west, mid 20th century, it’s popularity has boomed in the last 20 years and is still continuing to grow in popularity. Why is Yoga so appealing to so many? Our culture in the United States is progressively more overworked, disconnected and overstimulated, people are craving the benefits of Yoga in order to deal with the stresses of everyday life. Yoga’s original purpose was to help people find liberation from whatever ails them. Here in the west people practice Yoga for numerous reasons. Most people first try Yoga for the physical benefits of increased strength and/or flexibility and then many people discover the other benefits, such as improved mood, better sleep, better digestion, heightened awareness and a multitude of other fringe benefits.
Afraid of not being flexible? Fear not! We already thought of that, Yoga is not just for the super flexible, it will help improve flexibility in a safe way when taught well. Yoga can also help hyper-mobile people, such as many dancers, find balance by increasing strength and proper alignment for safety. It is not all about flexibility; strength, alignment and breathing matter too!
My personal path to yoga began at the age of 12, I was given a book on Yoga and found myself sitting in my room trying on all the most difficult postures. I then took actual classes and fell in love with it. I am currently a professional dancer, dance, yoga and pilates teacher and freelance choreographer. My professional dance education was through the Alvin Ailey School of Dance in New York City and while I was there I was required to take yoga every morning before my long days in the dance studio. These days many professional dancers and professional dance education institutions require yoga and/or pilates as a part of their conditioning to stay strong, flexible and injury free.
Yoga is a technique to unite all aspects of the human being. Today’s world is full of distractions and lots of opportunities to disconnect from our own bodies, feelings, breath and even lose control of our thoughts. Yoga can help bring us back into the natural state of being that is inherent in all living things, and can also make you feel and look great. Who doesn’t want to feel and look great?
Who is Yoga not for? Yoga can be for everyone, however, there are some considerations one should take. High blood pressure is a condition in which you will want to ask for modifications from your instructor in some cases. Pregnant woman can practice Yoga but need modifications in many of the postures. If you think you have a debilitating condition that would make you ineligible to practice Yoga, ask your doctor first if it is ok to practice Yoga for your condition and if your doctor says yes then ask your Yoga instructor for some tips. Most teachers have modifications for the poses and would love to help you practice.
Written by Cynthia Blanco-Mathers
Cynthia is a professional dancer, dance, yoga and pilates teacher and freelance choreographer located in the Denver Metro Area. She is 200 hour Yoga Alliance Certified and has been teaching Yoga for 9 years. She currently teaches a Vinyasa Yoga class at Belliston Academy every Thursday 12 – 1 pm.