Health is wealth. Peace of mind is happiness.
Yoga shows the way.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “yoking,” that is, yoking together mind and spirit. Many say the intention of yoga is to bring you closer to your Creator. It is a philosophical system with a matrix of different kinds of yoga and paths.
I am going to focus on hatha yoga, which is the most popular here in the Western Hemisphere and relates more to the physical poses. Except when I am traveling, I do my yoga fairly regularly. I need it more then ever when I am traveling, but it is difficult to do on hotel room floors, particularly in Third World countries where the cleanliness standards leave much to be desired.
When I am at home, however, I have my morning yoga ritual. It’s not a big deal: four to eight sun salutations, where I keep some of the poses for up to one minute each time. I especially love the bow, cobra, downward-facing dog, and shoulder stand pose. The stretching and facing the earth is especially grounding and a delicious way to introduce yourself to a new day. Next, I do the plow and other poses, then 150 crunches, a headstand using a body lift so not to strain my neck, and then ten neck stretches. My ritual takes about an hour and really centers and calms me for the day.
I have been doing this for about five years. I know I need more if I ever find myself upset at someone in traffic. That is my barometer, my indicator that I need more yoga.
My mom and sister have been taking yoga classes for as long as I can remember. I like yoga because it is so calming, yet toning. I prefer to do my physical exercise alone. Men seem to enjoy sports and exercise that involve multi-participants, but I usually enjoy exercising in solitude.
Examples of serenity
One of the most impressive things to me about India, where Yoga originated, is the way many of the shopkeepers keep so calm, almost majestic, sitting in the lotus position in their three by three square feet of space. Amidst the terribly loud noises of horns blowing, people talking, bells ringing, the awful smells of cow dung, urine, diesel fuel, and the hundred and ten degree heat, there they sit, not moving, with completely celestial looks on their faces. Amazing.
Benefits of yoga
I personally have gained greatly from yoga. It really gets me calm and centered to start my day, but it was also the main force to get me to stop smoking. I knew it would be. I knew if I kept bringing these positive habits into my life, that my life would transform. Like most smokers, I had beaten myself up. I really wished I would stop, but cigarettes were like little friends I could always depend on to be there if I was hurt, angry, stressed, or bored. But when I started doing my yoga every day and began bringing so many other healthful things into my life, cigarettes just didn’t fit anymore.
As I stated in the Quitting Smoking section of this book, I decided to forgive myself for smoking, but continued to add more and more positive things to my life. I was already doing my fresh carrot juice daily, drinking “pond scum” (juice, wheat grass, alfalfa, etc.), eating only fruit for most lunches, working out, walking daily, steaming, meditating, and so on. And one day, I got up just like any other day. I did my yoga. As I was sitting there in the lotus position doing my neck stretches, it came to me: I don’t want to smoke anymore. Yes, that’s it, I’m done. Finished. And I never smoked another cigarette. I am not saying that it wasn’t difficult at times, but the choice had been made and I gave up immediate gratification for long-term health.
No matter who you are and what you want out of life, I highly recommend yoga. The benefits are too numerous to list here, but just to name a few: mental centering, physical toning and strengthening, stress relief, better posture, flatter stomach, tranquillity, and relaxation. It’s easy, free, you can do it at home in almost any space, and it’s simple.
Many of the poses enhance general health while nourishing all the vital organs, aiding them in their functions. Yoga is a great all-purpose energizer. It stretches muscles, stimulates circulation, strengthens the back, and supports the abdominal organs. It can eliminate constipation, refresh the mind, and it is a great weight regulator. No matter how perfect your skin is, no matter how many God-given gifts of good looks you were given, if your muscles are not toned and your vital organs aren’t getting fresh blood, you are going to feel sluggish and look like jelly.
Most of the yoga classes I have attended were through the Shambhava School of Yoga in Eldorado Springs, Colorado. One was a meditation and yoga combination class offered through Colorado Free University in Denver. In addition, I attended some classes at the Shambhava School’s ashram. It has some spectacular teachers and rigorous classes, and I have to admit, after attending their classes I felt an extra bonus, in contrast to just doing my own little routine at home.
I highly suggest that you take a class to get you going and to make sure you are doing the poses correctly. Done improperly, the plow or shoulder stand can hurt your neck. There are many classes, retreats, videos, and books available on yoga. Look for them at your health food store. While there, check flyers and posters about nearby classes. You can also check out books and videos at your local library or locate them at your favorite bookstore.
Yoga camps and teachers’ training
Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize. Lead a simple life. Practice daily meditation and establish peace in your own heart. Then you will radiate peace to all who come in contact with you. Mysterious is this peace. If you enjoy this peace, you will be contributing peace to the whole world. Realize the peace that passeth all understanding and be free.
The Sivananda ashram has yoga teachers’ training courses and retreats all over the world. In New York is the Yoga Ranch; in California, the Yoga Farm; and there is one I have mentioned on Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas. They promote “A Yoga Vacation Experience: Proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet, positive thinking and meditation.”
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat
P.O. Box N7550
Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas
Fax (242) 363-3783
(800) 783-9642 in US
(800) 263-9642 in Canada
email [email protected]
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch
243 West 24th Street
New York City, NY 10011
Ananda Yoga Ashram
International Centre for Yoga Education and Research
16-A/16-B, Mettu Street,
Kottakuppam 605 104, (via Pondicherry)
Tamil Nadu, India
According to the information that the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research (ICYER) sent me, it offers a six-month program. The Ananda Ashram and ICYER are located in a small fishing village on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, in Southern India, near Pondicherry. All meals are vegetarian. Meals and classes are held outside in the garden and meditation area. Most accommodations are single rooms with a shared bath.
This training offers a plus: taking pilgrimages to nearby temples and holy places, as well as participating in local religious and cultural festivals. Included are programs on Indian dance, music, and instruments. In addition, each student is expected to take up one facet of the Hindu culture or art and learn about it in depth to give him/her deeper insight.
According to one of the pamphlets, “The student learns that the real Yoga . . . Union with the Cosmos . . . can only occur when ‘first works are done first.’ The body, mind, emotions, must first be cleansed and purified. They must then be understood, explored, disciplined, controlled and made sensitive, so that the entire nature is capable of responding to and living in harmony with the Cosmic Rhythms.
“Most important of all, life in the Ashram Guru Kula is a constant study of one’s own self—the student must come face-to-face with his or her own nature. There is no escape from self-knowledge in the Guru Kula. Change is possible only when one becomes aware in totality of one’s faults and failings. This basic self-knowledge becomes the foundation on which to build a solid Yoga Life.”
For the more tame, there are many yoga training centers in the United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico. There are several in Boulder. The yoga training centers I know the most about are the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat Center and the Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram, which are both run by Shambhavananda Yogi.
The publication Insight states: “Shambhavananda Yogi’s vision for Eldorado and Shoshoni is to create an environment conducive to inner growth nurturing practitioners toward the realization of their true Self or Buddha nature . . . the heart is the hub of all sacred places. Go there and roam in it.”
The Shoshoni retreat center offers month-long “intensives” during the summer that are specifically set up for training, but when I stayed at the Shoshoni retreat center in the middle of the winter, there were a couple of resident guests in month-long yoga training. The center seemed to smoothly weave me into the ashram life of chanting, meditation, and yoga classes.
Shoshoni and the Eldorado Mountain Ashram are both beautiful, situated in or near the mountains. They have a quieting energy and the people are kind and friendly. I enjoyed being at each and highly recommend them.
The Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram offers a several-month nonresident program for working people. It is held on specific dates for six to eight months, two weekends a month and then one night a month.
This Ashram is approximately six miles from Boulder and is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Shoshoni is up the canyon about a half-hour, actually in the mountains. When you finish a class, you really feel the difference in your body. I have gone really uptight with all my muscles stiff and hurting and left after one hour feeling almost completely free of tension.
I like that their yoga classes are guided with imagery and positive words of wisdom. While the poses are not difficult, the teachers often have you hold them long enough to achieve ultimate stretching.
I have really enjoyed attending. Consider going yourself!