A good yoga teacher knows how to carefully sequence a yoga class so you feel that all sides of you are properly warmed and stretched. But how does your mind feel when you're done with class? Does your practice sustain you through the day, with steady energy, and a harmonious attitude toward others? If it doesn't, there is much more that yoga can offer you.
Yoga teaches us that the tools of posture, breathing, and meditation should be applied to balance the opposites in our constitution. Yoga unites mind, body, and spirit according to our moods, the weather, and even the time of day. But each person is an individual, so we must take into consideration what imbalances are present to practice correctly and restore balance. Just like a well-built home, we need a strong foundation to leverage our bodies against the decrepit effects of gravity. In order to arrive at balance, we need to apply appropriate effort in the opposite direction! If a rigorous yoga practice or sport has left you imbalanced, injured, or grasping at poses not meant for your body, it may be time to adjust your practice.
Generally speaking, backbends and "heart openers" which stretch the arms out to the sides, increase prana, or energy, in the upper chest area of the heart and lungs. While most people benefit from working this area, others can feel quite unbalanced with excessive back-bending such as a scattered mind and hyperactivity. Appropriately applied, back bends will give you natural energy to start your day, or recover from a late afternoon energy slump. But imagine someone with an anxious mind and a back problem doing a whole class of back bends!
To provide balance, some yoga classes have an entirely different goal: to balance the mind. These classes are thoughtfully named “Healing Flow,” “Breath-Centered” or “Mindful Movement” classes to highlight their emphasis on breathing and mindfulness. Through thoughtful sequencing, the teacher guides the class into mindful movement as the primary goal of the practice where there is greater adaptability, and a lessened temptation to push through pain, or to manipulate yourself into a pose. Each set of movements are coordinated with breathing, and therefore beneficial for circulation, stress relief, and are adaptable for anyone.
This mindful movement and breath-centered approach brings the mind and body into a harmonious state of being so that daily activity, sports, work, and relationships can flow more easily. This type of yoga is easy to learn, and most people find they feel comfortable doing it right away. This slow flow integrates the whole being without forcing the body into contortions or uncomfortable movements.
If you’re interested in taking a slow flow/breath-centered yoga class, check out your local yoga studio and ask about it. Let’s remember the reason behind doing yoga is to heal and unite the whole person, not just aesthetics. The whole point of doing yoga is to get to a place of stillness and peace, where the purpose of the movement is the movement itself. So make the first move and visit us to find out if mindful movement is the tool to peace of mind and body you’ve been searching for.
Kristen Fewel, Yoga Educator, Reiki Master
Full Circle Yoga & Healing Arts