Something for Everyone
By Rita King and Cheryl M. Perry
The title suggests the menu at the local diner and that is just what yoga seems to be sometimes. There is something here to please just about any appetite. Both of us have taught yoga to people with disabilities, breaking the mold that casts yoga as an activity for people who are athletic and flexible, young and slim.
Most of us don't have the perfect body or excellent health for which we all long. We have different strengths and weaknesses, abilities and limitations. Yoga is remarkable in that it shows us how to use whatever ability we have to improve our physical health and mental attitude, no matter what our life circumstances. Yoga has something to offer everyone. It helps us to develop greater strength and to become more capable by improving body consciousness and embracing ourselves, just as we are!
As a non-competitive system based on the concept of self-worth, yoga offers a holistic program of exercise, breathing, relaxation and meditation that anyone can do working within one's limits in a non judgmental way.
Any amount of movement performed in the context of asana (postures) will increase mobility and muscle strength and improve coordination, circulation and organ function. Practitioners also report improvements in self-esteem, confidence and energy levels, while at the same time reducing anxiety and the effects of stress.
Pranayama (breathing) practices produce improvements in lung capacity organ function and energy levels, creating an overall increased efficiency in the respiratory system, which reduces strain on the heart. Relaxation and meditation techniques decrease tension and stress and improve concentration and awareness. Many yogis also report that they find improved coping skills, a positive self-image and openness to new views not experienced before they started these practices.
Because the numerous teachers in our area teach one or some combination of these four aspects of yoga practice, you will most likely need to "shop around" for the combination which best suits you. Some asana practices can be quite rigorous to suit those athletically inclined, while others focus on light asana practices and emphasize pranayama and/or meditation. Finding a class suitable for you may just be a matter of visiting several classes until you find one that fits. Many teachers offer private classes, though you will pay more to have the class custom fit.
Once learned, these practices can be customized by you in a personal, home practice, the best of all worlds, and the one which you are most likely to practice for a lifetime.
The concepts of yoga have great value for everyone. As you begin to know yourself better, you will, in due course, discover something at the very core of your being. In yoga, this is called the Self and is considered to be the real support of the individual. As self-awareness grows, one becomes more resistant to negative attitudes and learns to find the beauty, contentment and balance inside.
Whatever your condition, you can use yoga to improve the quality of your life. Regular practice can help restore natural balance and harmony, and health to every aspect of your life.
Cheryl M. Perry practices and teaches yoga at Yoga Hmmm in west Houston.
Rita King is a registered Yoga Alliance 200 teacher sharing her light and yoga with students with various disabilities including those at Light House for the Blind.