“Stand like a mountain. Stand strong and tall like a mountain. What is so nice about yoga is you become so aware of your body and all your muscles.”
So says Leslie, whom I have been listening to for the past four years, sometimes on a daily basis, to guide us through yoga exercises.
Yoga has become a main part of our lives for the past four years after I found the You can do Yoga video in the bargain bin at London Drugs. I already had five other yoga CDs and fitness magazines and yoga instruction books. However this one I do on a regular basis. I call it yoga for elders. My darling does it nearly every day, and if he can do it, he says so can everyone else.
Recently I have been paying much more attention to why I like yoga, and how my body is responding, not only doing Leslie’s tapes but the others I have or attending classes. The stretches and the strength moves really do feel good and I notice I stand and walk taller. I like the feeling of serenity with the mind-body connection. The bonus is it is easy to do some of the exercises anywhere and this aids in integrating this practice into our daily lives.
My mother took yoga classes many years ago and the stretching helped her to keep swimming on a daily basis into her 80s. My youngest son’s rep soccer coach introduced the lads to yoga as a great way to stretch their young and growing muscles to prevent injuries. Both of my sons do yoga on a regular basis and we have the added benefit of yoga teacher Kendra Kulak being in our lives. She has produced videos on YouTube that get right into the stretching and strength exercises.
Yoga is an ancient exercise developed thousands of years ago that has become mainstream. Within our community there are many options: all the gyms, the yoga studios, private instructors and of course Googling it generates thousands of options. All ages and body types benefit and this is part of the appeal.
Yoga and meditation are often linked. Meditation makes great sense to me as someone whose mind goes off in many different directions. I truly believe we need to quiet our minds. This quiet time of reflection can be sitting quietly, or walking in the neighbourhood, woods or over the beautiful hills that surround us, just time to be with nature. For those of us with dogs we are fortunate to do this regularly.
Our children are growing up in a world that never turns off. There are benefits to shutting off screens and giving our minds a rest. Many coaches, teachers, parents, youth engagers are teaching young people about yoga and meditation. I recently read about programs in schools where when a youth gets into trouble they are sent to the meditation room. A healthier time-out to reflect. These are life skills that will aid in daily challenges: yoga for keeping our body strong and limber, meditation to allow the mind to slow down.
Meditation can help with anxiety and I have seen this first-hand with a family member who is a very anxious flyer. He has had great success with his meditation aiding him in stressful situations like flying, quietly practising his meditation, with no one aware of what he is doing. Meditation does not require you to sit cross legged with your hands resting on your knees, unless you want to, just being quiet and comfortable is what is needed.
Stress is a word that has been so integrated into our language, and people are looking for ways to manage the busyness of our lives and the impact of life events. Perhaps the phrase “giving peace a chance” begins within our own minds and bodies. Namaste.
Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 30 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.