Today… a collaborative post! One Saturday in March, BJ, Cynthia, and I spent our morning together practicing yoga and talking blog stuff. We have varying degrees of experience with yoga (and exercise, athletic training in general), so it was interesting to practice together and compare our experiences.
We practiced Ashley Turner’s Yoga for Stress Relief.
Cynthia’s perspective: I’m so glad I was not alone for my first yoga experince. This particular yoga video wasn’t too difficult or too intense but still there were moves where I had no idea what I was doing. The worst part for me, I think, was my inability to take it easy! Flexibility is not my thing, but seeing the instructor (BJ and Stacy as well) extending so far, I just had to push myself to do the same. Haha, I complained about how some moves were painful afterwards and it was good to hear that it actually took BJ and Stacy awhile to be able to extend as far as they were able. There were also some moves that were able to stretch areas I never knew were tense, and it felt so good. I’d have to say that was probably my favorite part, just being able to stretch out and feel the tension melt away.
I stress myself out daily with worry about school, work and life. The worst part about it is, I have a lot of physical menifestations of my stress, causing headaches, gastritis and even fainting (I know! Totally scary!). Usually intense aerobic exercises well help calm by nervous and relax my mind but yoga was suprisingly calming. I might have to get my own yoga video to keep my stress level at bay or maybe I’ll just make Stacy and BJ come over all the time for some nice relaxing yoga.
BJ’s perspective: Group yoga. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for group experiments. Especially if it’s something I like to do already. I’ve been doing a vinyasa yoga (Basically a yoga cardio work out format. No time for “oms” and relaxation there, just sweat, breathing and feeling some nirvana burn, baby.) but I have never done much with Hatha yoga, which is what most people think of when they think “yoga” Stretching forms, focus on relaxation, slow stretching, and mental focus. I have to admit, I didn’t have a very good idea what to expect, and the vast majority of the poses we did I had never done before.
That’s one of the great things about yoga: there is always something new to learn. The other great thing is no matter what your fitness level is, or flexibility, you can do yoga. I have a back injury and I’m no slim-jim. My back injury stems from two factors, I have a hypermobile spine, and a few years ago I was in car accident which followed up with another car accident last fall (Neither were my fault, I swear! I’m like a magnet for bad drivers.) My chiropractor advises me to keep my work outs lower impact until my treatments are done (I have a few months to go on that) and also recommends that I strengthen the muscles in my back and core to help my vertebrae maintain the correct placement in my back. (My anti-slim-jim-ness stems from the fact that I am an amazing cook. As far as I know, there’s no real cure for that one.) That can be a tall order to fill, especially if you’re like me and get bored quickly of monotonous work out routines. Yoga serves up that tall order with no problem.
Physically, yoga has helped me be more conscious of my posture, more aware of what my muscles and tendons are telling me when I do other work outs, and helped my balance. These are all pretty mod benefits that I was expecting and am enjoying to no end. I wasn’t really expecting much from the meditation standpoint when I first started. It’s part of why I chose a yoga form that doesn’t focus as much on it; plus I consider myself a pretty laid back person most of the time and I’ve always made sure to include time to de-stress in my day so I didn’t consider it important. Despite those preconceived notions I found yoga helped me to focus better during the day. As much as I may consider myself laid back we are all in part the product of our surroundings, and being raised by parents who have a 50/50 chance of gaining them selves an Adult ADD diagnosis, and being married to an Adult ADD hubster I do have some attention span issues at times. I’m also always looking for something new to try. Those can be good personality traits, but sometimes unfortunate character flaws because I can have a hard time finishing projects.
I’ll admit, despite having reaped some of the benefits of “calm the frick down” from vinyasa yoga, I was expecting to be bored to death during the Hatha relaxation routine we did. Bent into a pretzel, yes, but a bored pretzel. I was pleasantly wrong and that’s part of yoga too; finding out new things about yourself and what you are capable of.
Stacy’s perspective: It’s hard for me to keep quiet during a video when I know there’s more to a pose than what’s included in a video. (But I think I only made BJ and Cynthia suffer a couple of my comments this time!) I also held back, because I wanted to see what the experience of practicing just what’s on the video was like for each of them. One of the quirky things about this video is the chant of om. If you’ve never been formally introduced to chanting om, you might think, “Great, here comes the weird part…”
Om was explained to me as “the sound the universe made when it was created by God.” I like that. Wikipedia explains that om is the name of God, the vibration of the Supreme. It’s chanted with a single exhalation (which can actually last a very long time in a roomful of yogi with well-developed lung capacity!) It’s uttered in three syllables, sounding like Aaaaa-Uuuu-Mmmmm. And truly, even as a Christ-follower, when I close my eyes and picture God creating the world, I can just imagine the power and intensity of the moment enhanced by this sound coming from Him.
At the end of the practice, we say, “Namaste,” meaning “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” I love practicing yoga with others. There is fellowship in souls coming together to connect through breath and movement… without needing to utter a word.