Monday, 29 November 2010

Yoga - Different Strokes for Different Folks

Yoga is for everyone! However, there is a big difference between what your yoga practice should be when you are 20, 30, 50 or 70 and more. The practice should change as the body changes and provide what we need in order to enhance our life's experiences.

In Yoga Rahasy of Nathamuni, we are urged to consider the individual's stage in life while practicing yoga. When one is young, the body is in the growth stage. More rigorous forms of yoga are appropriate - like vinyasa, ashtanga, power yoga, etc. With proper breathing rigorous practice helps the young body grow and develop with good physical health and mental stability. Building strength and challenging one's limits are an essential part of yoga for the young. As hormones are changing emotions and behavior, confusion become part of everyday life for a young person. Anxiety, self-confidence, authenticity are all issues that a balanced, challenging and grounding yoga practice can address at this stage of life.

In addition, young individuals are involved in varieties of sports, often competitively. Athletes can benefit from yoga as a cross training tool, as a practice to develop focus and concentration, and as a practice to prevent and take care of existing injuries.

During midlife, when the body is neither growing, nor decaying, the yoga practice takes more of a therapeutic, stress reduction and relaxation approach. More precision, good yogic breathing, meditations, chanting, etc become necessary. In midlife, the main requirement is to stay healthy so one can meet the demands of daily living and the responsibilities of having a job and a family. This is the stage when one has to achieve results - personally, and professionally. The pressure builds mentally and physically. Stress is constantly present as people multitask, juggling family and friends with work deadlines, financial stability and providing security. Headaches, chronic tightness in the shoulders, neck, and back, injuries from caring children or lifting heavy objects improperly, sitting for prolong periods of time in front of a computer or an office desk, occupational hazards, overuse of the body...etc become a fact of life. One must remain fit enough to ward off stagnation, weight gain, heart disease, arthritis, etc, and yet have enough time for everything else that demands attention. Therefore, one's yoga practice should be less "achievement" oriented, and more of an opportunity to reconnect with one's self, realign the body, correct the posture, deepen the breath to relax the nervous system, take care of injuries, and restore calm. The practice should cultivate more mindfulness as life's demands are met easier with more positive attitude, less judgment and tons of compassion towards one's self and others.

As one ages, the body begins to decay - metabolism changes, bone density changes, disease, discomfort and pain seem to visit more often. In this stage yoga practice should be directed toward maintaining mobility and balance more than anything else. Also, as death approaches, one must begin to prepare for the event, so the yoga practice should include more meditation, along with study and reflection on one's life and spiritual teachings. Some specific benefits yoga provides for the elderly body include: reduced blood pressure and maintaining a healthy heart function; maintaining good range of motion, maintaining strength and balance enabling the body to prevent falls and injuries; keeping the spine in proper alignment reducing the need for chiropractic adjustments and considerably lessening chronic back aches and pains; improved circulation to the feet and hands; improved digestion and metabolism; improved breathing which helps with conditions like asthma; improved sleep at night, and much more.

Ultimately, in any stage of life we can benefit from peace of mind, alertness, equanimity, compassion and positive attitude. Yoga is an excellent practice to undertake at any stage of life and by people enjoying any kind of life style. Whatever our life's circumstances, when doing yoga, we do better, have more fun and appreciate what we have a lot more. Finding a class that meets your needs and requirements, with a teacher that you resonate with, will help you appreciate yoga, your body and being, and be more consistent in you practice. The practice is only helpful if it is a regular part of one's life.