A doctor recently said to me, “I recommend yoga to my patients all the time; what is it?”
Yoga classes have become popular and are offered at many exercise venues. “Yoga” can mean anything from a relaxing, spiritual movement and meditation experience led by a highly trained teacher to a physically demanding workout led by an individual with brief training and little experience (and everything in between.) There is no regulating body for yoga teachers; there’s a registry, but no examination or accreditation process, and training programs abound.
I’m a regular practitioner of yoga and meditation and I credit those practices with supporting my mind, my body and my spirit through illness and recovery. The word “yoga” comes from the ancient Sanskrit language and means the union of mind, body and spirit.
Yoga is not a series of physical exercises to be mastered; it’s not another opportunity to set fitness goals and then chastise yourself for falling short; it’s not an activity in which to “push through” or “feel the burn.”
One of my favorite things about yoga practice is the instruction to always be kind to yourself and practice for how you feel on that particular day. Your intention to nurture and strengthen your mind, body and spirit is the most important thing.
It’s a good idea to talk with the teacher of any class you want to attend. Look for sensitive teachers who listen to you, understand your health issues, and want to help you gradually build your strength and stamina. No need to sap your precious and newly restored energy. Your body will benefit tremendously from wise movement.
The stillness part of a yoga practice is as important as the movement part. Just breathing mindfully for a few minutes of quiet contemplation regularly can make a big difference in how you feel. The subtle yoga practices – breathing, meditation, chanting, etc. – can be the most powerful.
Recovery from illness is not a time to say to yourself, “Hey, you need to get in shape!” It’s a time to say, “What kind, loving and supportive activity can I do for myself?”