“Resolve to evolve” through the practice of yoga in the New Year

by Tony Bishop, E-RYT

As you think about your favorite activity, what is the first thing that happens? You probably smile. Yes, either physically and externally, or in your mind you smile as this favorite activity brings you joy, confidence, peace, and even a feeling of belonging and community. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? For many, that feeling comes only at your place of worship. But there is a common thread I have found among my own friends and family in church, work, leisure, play, or physical exercise – desire and motivation.

For nearly 20 years, I have practiced yoga on a near-daily basis and sometimes for long periods during those days. I have found yoga to be the best activity for physical healing and effective exercise, but more than that, I have experienced the calming and mental clarity which are so greatly improved through proper yoga practice. Personally, I happen to be a Christian who teaches and practices yoga, and although I will discuss spiritual aspects and misconceptions in a coming yoga article, that is not my intent here. I simply wish to recognize a connotation of “spirituality” to which some practitioners refer which I have also experienced. I understand this phenomenon, as the calm, peace, feeling of a loving heart, and connection to others around you after a great yoga class is in essence very similar to that after a great church service. It is rather euphoric, as you feel cleansed and renewed.

Let’s get started on a journey that will keep us motivated and excited, and feeling great all year. Try yoga. Not just once. Try practicing yoga on a regular basis, for an extended period of time. As with any worthwhile thing that you do, your mental attitude and approach are of utmost importance. Visiting once or twice in a yoga class and then shrugging and saying “It’s just not for me” is very unfair to yourself and such a tragic end to the potential you have in the future. Just relax, smile, take a deep breath and try the following:

– First, choose a yoga class that you feel comfortable trying. Yoga is becoming more available at health clubs, yoga studios, schools (college, high school, and elementary), civic clubs, and even churches. Do a little research regarding your choice so you will know what the approach of the class will be and what results to expect.

– Enter the class with a smile and an open mind. You are in a good place, if you have researched the class previously and know where you are.

– Be very, very, very patient. With yourself, the practice, and the yoga instructor. Don’t expect instant gratification. Yoga is a process, similar to a healthy weight loss regimen. You don’t expect to lose 45 pounds in your first weight control meeting; don’t expect to find perfect postures and peace of mind in your first yoga class.

– Be prepared to work on your mental approach to this experience. So many new yoga participants go to classes and will talk about what a “great workout” it was, and they will be the first ones to rush out of the yoga room after class, and always seem to be in a hurry to get the class over so they can dash to their phone to check text messages. This is where yoga is so different and can be so much deeper than a typical workout. It starts with controlling your mind and body in a new way. You become more responsible in your well-being.

– Awareness is your new favorite word. While many like to be distracted from hard work in exercise by using earphones and television monitors, yoga is much more centered; as with the world’s top athletes, awareness of every movement and every breath becomes important for optimal performance. A great example is Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who played professional basketball into his forties by practicing yoga and tai chi every day along with his normal workouts.

– Keep doing your normal workouts (as long as they are physiologically safe), and slowly add yoga to your weekly routine. Remember, you can always schedule time for something worth doing, so plan on doing yoga at least twice or more per week to see and feel true results.

– Be open to changing your eating habits. Small changes are still good, so just work on better hydration and less processed foods to start, and then take small steps to better nutrition. This makes a tremendous impact on how you look and feel.

– Yoga works virtually every muscle and system in the body, along with deep mental concentration, deep breathing and nearly 100% stimulation of the worked muscle tissue, so this can be the greatest, most intense and yet most calming and gratifying experience you have ever had… just allow yourself to go slowly and methodically as you get better and more aware with each time you practice.

Realizing what a great thing you’re doing can be very motivating in itself, and this is from where I drew my resolve when I first began practicing yoga. I began doing yoga years ago to help heal an injury from Kung Fu, and I remember after my first class thinking, “Well, that was pretty cool… it was nice, but I don’t know that I got a lot out of it.” But that very night I slept like a baby and felt so rested when I awoke the next morning. I didn’t have a sleeping problem, but my sleep was just so much more restful after yoga. I was immediately impressed, and even though I was a hardcore “workout” guy who did Iron Body and Kung Fu techniques which were very intense to say the least, I was already a yogi in the making.

Yoga means “yoke,” the bringing together of yourself and just not being so “scattered” in your daily activities. Keeping your motivation and keeping your resolve throughout the year is so much easier with yoga in your life, as it will help make you more aware of everything. So be healthy. Be well, and take some special time for you. As God Himself said, your body is a temple. Treat your body and your mind with a daily yoga practice! God bless and namaste!

And now, here it is… Your January 2018 “Pause for a Pose” – The Downward Dog to Chaturanga Mini-Flow

 This is a beginning to intermediate posture flow using breath, body and mind connection. Begin in all-fours position and walk the feet slightly back, inhale, then upon the exhale… straighten the knees and push the hips upward with head down. “Downward Dog.” Engage/pull in the abdominals, inhale and as you exhale… bend the elbows straight back toward the ankles, inhale forward into a plank position with straight knees and exhale, slowly dropping toward the ground until the chin is a few inches from the floor & the triceps are level with the back. Entire body is straight! Stay forward on the toes, gaze out, abs in: Chaturanga Dandasana. Breathe! Inhale, and then push back up during the exhale to plank & downward dog. Modify: Stay on the knees during the movement. Enjoy practicing this mini-flow all month, and we will see you tomorrow at Hot Yoga! Happiness and the best health to you & yours in the New Year… God bless and namaste’.

 About the Author:

Tony Bishop, E-RYT/RYT/CYT is director and chief instructor with Hot Yoga Bowling Green. He is certified in Hatha Yoga instruction, yoga teacher training, yoga personal training, yoga coaching, PowerHouse Pilates instruction, spinning, Sil lum Kung Fu, and is experienced in many other forms of exercise training. He is registered with Yoga Alliance, is a graduate of Sunstone Yoga Schools teacher training programs and has some 5,000 hours of yoga teaching experience. He is an avid research proponent in yoga, and is dedicated to development of the most progressive and innovative yoga techniques available anywhere. For more information, visit hotyogabowlinggreen.com, email hotyogabg@yahoo.com, or contact Tony at 270-793-0011, 730 Fairview Avenue, Suite C-2, Bowling Green, Kentucky.