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Why Practice Yoga?

By Mark Goldstein

MeditationWhy practice yoga? Because you will feel better.

Practicing the type of yoga that is right for you will improve your life. Some enter a yoga practice in search of physical improvement, and some are searching for a deeper spiritual involvement. Many find their way into some of both. It is truly unimportant what physical shape that you are in, or whether or not you believe or disbelieve in any type of higher power. All that is important to practice yoga is showing up on your mat and letting your practice unfold.

It is never too late to begin.  Yoga is one of the rare physical activities that we can actually improve as we get older. We see it all the time in our classes.

I was a gymnast when I was much younger, but it wasn’t until after some years practicing yoga and when I turned 40 that I was able to jump up into a handstand and hold it.

I guarantee that when you meet an elderly person who has been practicing yoga for years that you will hope to be just like them when you reach their age.

Some people like to take group classes and some prefer private one on one training. Some enjoy large groups with great music, and some prefer to practice alone in silence. Instructional DVDs are available and useful, but most agree that a having a live teacher there to help is even better. How ever you do it, just do it.

Just like any form of exercise, you need to find a way that works for you, your schedule and your budget. Don’t expect miracles at first, but do expect to feel great after your first class. If you would like to begin practicing yoga, do it. Find a teacher and begin. If you live here in Manuel Antonio, we have some great teachers, offering various styles of yoga.

In these articles I am writing for Quepolandia I will be including a Pose of the Month, and will incorporate this pose into each one of my classes. This is a great way for new practitioners to be introduced into some of the basic elements of a pose. It can also be useful for seasoned practitioners to further focus and advance their practice. If you are here with us for a while, then perhaps you will see this pose advance and deepen throughout the month.

Since this is the first article in this series, I would like to start with the pose that we begin each class with. In English this pose is named ” Sitting  Pose”, in Sanskrit it is called  ” Sukhasana”.  Sanskrit is the ancient language of India and is referred to extensively in yoga. Sanskrit is a very descriptive language, and quite beautiful. Sukhasana translates from Sanskrit into “Easy Pose”.

Sukha= Comfortable, gentle or agreeable

Asana= Pose or position

Whether you are taking a very gentle yoga class, or a more vigorous one, many of us begin each and every practice with this very important asana.

This pose is a time to get inside your body, and to set an intention for your practice that day. To leave the outside world behind and begin to delve deeply into your own physical realm. A lofty goal for such a gentle pose, yet it is one of the most powerful and important. Like any other asana, you may take to it instantly, or you might need to commit to repeating it many times before it comes naturally.

Here is what I present in class. Come and try it with us, or better yet, practice it right after you finish reading this.

First, find a comfortable seated position. You can sit crossed legged, as in the picture, or you can kneel or sit in a chair. In any case, you need to be comfortable. If you are on the floor, consider using a cushion. This will bring your hips higher then your knees, which can be a tremendous help. If you feel like you are slouching, then you need a cushion.

Next. close your eyes. Shift around  until you are comfortable and feel like your spine is erect. Try and feel like each of your vertebrae are stacked, one on top of the next. Now settle into your body. Breath through your nose, and begin to relax completely, from the outside in.

We want to take a journey deep into our bodies.

Notice your skin. Sense that it covers your entire body, and now imagine it perfectly smooth, as it drapes itself like a blanket over your muscles. Try and relax your skin.

Diving deeper, imagine all of your muscles. See if you can sense any tension, and let it go. Relax your face, shoulders, belly and knees. Imagine your muscles, smooth and glistening, draped by your blanket of smooth skin.

Now deeper, we find our breath. Breathe in and out through your nose. Start to take notice of the parts of your anatomy that are responsible for your breath. Not only your lungs, but many more parts of your body too. Begin a three part, fuller breath. Starting with an inhale. First let your belly expand, next allow your side body, your ribs, to widen. Lastly notice your upper chest rise as you finish a gentle yet full inhale. Now reverse as you exhale through you nose. Your chest falls, ribs come back in, and belly softly squeezes the last of a gentle yet thorough exhale. Keep breathing like this, and notice, is my skin still smooth, are all of my muscles still relaxed? Just breath.

Anytime your thoughts start to build, try and let them go. Slowly counting your breath can work. Imagining a light or color can help, or  just give one name to your thought and let it float away. A good rule to follow can be: if your thoughts become conversations in your head, then stop, try and let it go, and start again from the beginning.

We sit like this for as little as two or three minutes and it can have a profound effect on our practice that day. Some will sit like this for ten minutes or an hour. Simply put, it is then called meditating.

When we begin our yoga practice by sitting and breathing, we set the foundation for our practice that day, by leaving the outside world,  it’s stresses AND it’s joys behind, taking a wonderful and well deserved hour or so to ourselves and our yoga practice.

A yoga practice can be a joyous part of your life, and I hope that I can play a part in opening that up to you.

Mark Goldstein lives in Manuel  Antonio, originally from the United States. Mark owns the business ‘”Playa Yoga” & is also a U.S. Nationally licensed Massage Therapist and  Certified Instructor of Traditional Thai Yoga  Massage. Mark can be reached by local phone at : 8-388-6960 or www.playayogacostarica.com


One Response to “Why Practice Yoga?”

  1. Sigrid Kulkowitz said:

    What a great article, inspiring and welcoming.


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