I am so pleased that this week, a quarterly Pioneer Valley publication, Live Well, produced by the Hampshire Daily Gazette, included an article I wrote, Living well with Yoga, as part of the ‘your health’ section of the magazine. As if one version weren’t enough, here are three. As you can see, the first is very small, a screen shot of the article, so you can see what it looks like.
More important, here is the text of the article. I would love for you to read it and send me comments.
SPRING 2014 LIVE WELL
By Karen Sheingold
LIVING WELL WITH YOGA
Yoga entered my life about 25 years ago, when I was in my late 40s.
Cycling, hiking, and taking aerobics classes, I had grown used to constant aches and pains. In fact, I thought that if at least one part of my body wasn’t hurting I was probably not being active enough. Somewhat surprisingly, yoga drew me in to a more refined awareness of my body and how to move it. The aches and pains diminished even as I maintained the same level of activity. Perhaps I didn’t have to hurt to stay in shape!
Now, still a student of yoga and in my tenth year as a yoga teacher, I recognize that yoga has been transformative. What began as a form of exercise is now integral to who I am. Through yoga, including the physical postures (asana), meditation, breathing and spiritual aspects of the practice, I am more centered, clear-minded, aware and open-hearted.
My body is stronger, more flexible, better balanced and more agile. My practice helps me reduce stress and find my calm center even when life becomes intensely pressured, painful or sad. Yoga has provided me a toolkit of practices and self-knowledge that has helped me lead a life that feels healthful and authentic.
These benefits are not unusual. Increasingly, studies are documenting these effects and others. For example, yoga is helpful for dealing with chronic illnesses, injuries, and some emotional challenges. In my experience, there are few people who cannot benefit from yoga. Still, I have heard many “reasons” why someone shouldn’t or can’t do yoga.
Here are a few:
I’m just too busy. The busier you are, the more you can benefit from yoga. In addition to reducing the effects of stress, yoga may help you gain perspective on the busyness itself.
Yoga is just for women. Definitely not! While more women than men practice yoga, its benefits are not linked to gender. Yoga is offered on military bases and is part of training for many sports teams and athletes, male and female. Men are welcome in yoga classes, and some studios offer men’s classes.
How could I do yoga? I can’t touch my toes! If you think you are not flexible enough to try yoga, rest assured that yoga will not only increase your flexibility, it will also help you better understand, appreciate and accept your amazing body, toes touched or not.
I’m too old! Although our bodies change with age, there are no age limitations to yoga. Listen to your body and let your teacher know if you have limitations. At any age, you can find that exquisite balance between challenging your body and honoring it. Look for teachers and classes that help you get there. There are classes for people 50 and older, and chair yoga if getting up and down from the floor is difficult.
Because yoga is a deeply personal practice, it is important to find the right teacher. Here are some suggestions:
• Make sure the teacher is certified and experienced.
• Look for a teacher whose training and classes can address your preferences or needs.
• Ask friends which teacher(s) they recommend, and why.
• Shop around. This may take time, but it is worth it. Once you find a teacher you like, try several classes before making a commitment.
• Make sure a teacher actually teaches. This sounds obvious, but in some yoga classes teachers simply call out the poses and do them in front of the class. Teachers should: provide clear instructions for getting into poses; walk around and help students; and offer modifications for poses.
• Make sure there is an internal focus that invites you to become aware of your experience.
• In each class, notice how you feel. Welcome? Comfortable? Safe? As a new student, you can expect to find some poses physically uncomfortable and some of the language strange. But finding a sense of comfort and safety is essential.
• Once you find a teacher who seems “right,” make a commitment to a consistent practice. As you deepen your practice, you will become more aware of yourself and your needs as a yoga student. Over time, you will find many teachers whose classes you enjoy.
Spring is the perfect time to begin or resume a yoga practice. So take some deep breaths and begin your voyage of self-discovery and health as the earth begins to flower. •
Karen Sheingold lives in Amherst, where she teaches yoga in her home studio and at the Hampshire Athletic Club. She can be reached at email@example.com.
And finally, if you would like to read it in its original form, just link to the magazine, go to page 23 and enjoy!