Special thanks to guest author, Tony Notarianni for another excellent contribution!
In my latest Yoga class I was about to leave and I felt like I had left something, twice I went back from the reception area and twice I found that all my possessions were with me. I left and returned home, and it was a little later that I realized something was missing. Not physical but something else, a part of me that was perhaps unduly troubled or distressed. It was gone, at least for a while.
I am not saying Yoga is the cure for all life’s ills, but there is some magical moments that can occur if you just dedicate yourself a little to its teachings. On the physical level it lengthens and strengthens muscles. It provides tone and improves posture. Joints open up and movements become more efficient. Internal organs are massaged by your movements and the lungs are developed through breathing. Throughout the whole process you work the mind, overcoming the physical by focusing the concentration which culminates in a calmness deep inside your being. This leads to an open mindedness that allows you to see things differently, to think and act in new ways.
Have I sold it to you yet? Are all the things I told you true? I know them to be true through personal experience and observation. You see when I first started doing Yoga which was about 8 months ago things were different. Not only were things different but I saw them differently. I had a more negative outlook on life. My body was deteriorating for one thing, I couldn’t run much because of hip pain, I couldn’t do much weights because of back pain. I could still do my martial arts but at the back of my mind I was wondering how long and at what level can I maintain that kind of training. There was also a swathe of things in my personal life that I will not go into with detail but I assure you were weighing me down immensely. To sum it up, I had a lot of things to deal with and sort out, starting with the body itself.
Having had Yoga suggested to me I went along to my first class with a very weak hope that maybe it would help a little bit. It did help, I felt like I had a good workout and it really got my circulation going. So I went back. Next time I found I was a bit more flexible and that in the relaxing stage of the class I was deeper under. So I went back. Next time I found a posture that was really difficult but left me feeling rehabilitated afterwards. So I went back. And this is the amazing thing about Yoga to me, that it keeps giving you new benefits every time. I am not a Yoga historian, so I do not know the intricacies of how it was developed, but I can see that the system is designed so that whatever your current state, you only have to enter into practice and the rest takes care of itself. That is why it is a system and not just a recreational activity, it is somehow self regulating in all aspects. If you develop flexibility you can hold deeper and more opening stances, in which case your muscles need to strengthen. In order to do some balancing exercises you must be able to focus fully, this develops your self control and allows you to improve your technique. In other words every posture you hold gives you exactly what you need and this gift allows you to get more rewards from other postures and so the cycle continues. The important thing is to keep working on it and enjoy the benefits. And the benefits of course are not just that you get better at your Yoga, you get better at life. Also of note: I have started running and lifting weights again.
My Yoga Teacher
At this point I should mention my Yoga teacher Bridget Yanni. She runs a Yoga centre called Amma Yanni Yoga in Glenside PA. Her style is inspired by Iyengar, Anusara and Inner Fire Yoga; each a form of Hatha yoga. The class usually starts with a warm up using variations of the Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskara. Once warmed up the class can vary immensely. The focus could be on twists, back bends, handstands, upper body, thighs, binds and various other aspects. Sometimes Yin yoga is incorporated where a posture is relaxed into for several minutes. Some classes have a spiritual focus, others are more physical. You never know what to expect and I like this variation a great deal. At the end of the class we finish with Savasana at which point one can let go having earned a deep relaxation. As a teacher Bridget is very educational, she has an extensive knowledge of the body structure and ensures that we work on a strong foundation while we practice. The class also feels quite personal in that you are not left alone and uncertain about what you are trying to achieve. Another thing I like about her teaching style is that she encourages you to believe in your own abilities. Most of the time she is right, and many students, including me, have surprised ourselves at what we were capable of. The other side of this is that she always has alternate exercises for those who can’t do the basic exercise due to body problems, so everyone gets to work at their own level. To me this is very important because Yoga is not just about restoration and healing, it is also about development. Taking you from the negative, back to zero and then upwards into the positive in a sustainable manner.
In summary Yoga is an incredible vehicle for improving every part of your being. The key is to find a good instructor so that you can jump aboard and stay the course. How long is the road? It is as long as you need.
About the Author
Tony Notarianni has been training in martial arts since the age of 12. Up to this point, although quite active, he had very little interest in sports and fitness but that all changed over the coming years. He started studying Sport as a subject at school and finally graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Sport and Exercise Science in 1998. Although not a typical sportsman and not a great fan of any one sport, Tony was always keen to try new activities and considers the world to be literally full of physical experiences to explore. Before graduation he was working at a sports complex where he was a lifeguard and could join and observe many different forms of exercise. He also taught circuit classes and was a qualified personal fitness instructor. After graduation he chased the dollar and ended up working in Software Development. Although becoming more sedentary he still has a deep rooted interest in improving himself physically and developing his knowledge.