A Celebration of Yoga

September is National Yoga Month so it felt apropos to muse on the benefits and ways to embrace yoga – along with providing a brief how-to for the sensational sun salutation. Yoga translates to “union” and offers a way to live life with mindful flair. The physical poses and breath work associated with yoga in the West are catalysts, but not the end all be all of this ancient practice. Yoga is a way of being. My favorite mantra lokah samasta sukino bhavantu translates to “May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” That is yoga! 

You are always in motion – browsing a bookstore, sipping tea at a café, volunteering at a local shelter – and you can find balance by staying connected to your yoga practice off the yoga mat. For example, while waiting for a late subway train, instead of growing impatient, shift your weight onto your right leg and place your left foot on your right ankle to practice the tranquility-invoking tree pose or practice taking long, full breaths. You can find peace within the pandemonium by spontaneously practicing the principles of yoga (summarized in the mantra featured above) in your everyday.

Yoga can transform your life on so many levels. A few of the main benefits include: increased confidence; attention to the impact of situations, people, and food on your body; the chance to slow down and take a break from life while on the mat; meet a community of like-minded people; deep breathing to ground you in sticky situations; improved sleep patterns; a connection to your inner voice; toned body; relief from pain, headaches, and stress. Oh, and the list goes on and on and varies among yoginis. Needless to say, yoga can have profound effects on your joie de vivre!

To get started or return to your practice, I recommend at least a weekly practice to begin immersing your body and spirit into yoga. When you start to get more serious, a daily practice is ideal, even if only for a few minutes. I try to carve out time each day for at least a forward fold, especially when traveling or on deadline. You may find that your body begins to crave the practice and your muscles actually ache for it when you take a hiatus. Yoga is different from other forms of exercise because most femmes find they love to practice rather than adding another “should” to their already-packed life.

To get started or to deepen your personal practice, begin to explore sun salutations. This series is sure to bring pep to your step and awaken your spirit. I recommend at least five of these to start and end your day.
1. Ground yourself in mountain pose at the top of the mat. Bring your hands to prayer position in front of your heart.
2. Inhale, extend your arms up over your head.
3. Exhale, reach your arms out to the side as you fold forward.
4. Inhale, step back with your right leg to a lunge.
5. Exhale, step back with your left leg to down dog.
6. Inhale, float your body forward to plank pose.
7. Exhale, drop your knees, bend your arms, and lower into half-chaturanga.
8. Inhale, drop your belly, slide up to cobra.
9. Exhale, curl your toes under, lift your hips up to down dog.
10. Inhale, step forward with your right foot into a lunge.
11. Exhale, step your left foot in between both hands to a forward fold.
12. Inhale, extend your arms out to the sides and up. Exhale your hands to prayer in mountain pose. 

Let this month provide the push you need to jumpstart your yoga practice. Whether it is the practice of poses, deep breaths, or embracing the mantra presented above, you ARE a yogi. Let yoga ooze from your spirit as easily as you draft a memo, nurture your family, walk your dog, or do anything that comes second nature. Yoga is about living in a way that contributes to others and if you achieve headstand along the way, so be it. Bask in being you – mindfully and authentically you. Namaste.

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