Yoga off the Mat

Most of you know that I (Amanda) have been practicing yoga for a number of years. My introduction to yoga came in a roundabout way, via the Les Mills program, Body Balance in 1999.

When I trained in Body Balance (on release no.5, which had the awesome Delerium song ‘Silence’ featuring Sarah MacLachan’s voice), I’d done very little yoga in my life. The experience was an emotional one: the training was difficult -I was so incredibly sore doing things I’d never done before- and the master trainer conducting it was very intimidating. It’s the only Les Mills training I’ve ever gone to where I’ve cried.

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I didn’t really take to Body Balance until I’d been teaching it for a year … and had started going to both yoga and Tai Chi classes.  And then my interest took off in a big way. When I came to Alice Springs, I found a community buzzing with Iyengar, Ashtanga, Satychananda, and more general styles, with Kirtan and meditation. It was all I really needed to deepen my interest.

For me, yoga practice is not just about doing the asana (the postures) – downward dogs, warriors and headstands. To be truthful, I couldn’t do a headstand until two years ago … after about 5 years of practice! Even now, I’m still perfecting it. The pranayama (breathing), pratyhara (withdrawal) and dharana (concentration) as well as studying the philosophy underlying the system are more meaningful to me than being able to stand on my head for 5 minutes. More than anything else, the pranayama and dharana have been incredibly helpful in dealing with stress, hurt, loss and most especially, depression. 

It is this experience that I will share. The small practices that I do in the morning and before going to bed are simple. I am not talking about asana, just about the breathing and meditation practice – about 20-25 minutes. (I do 30-40 min of asana several mornings per week, which is additional). But the focus, the calm, the sense of equinamity towards others they give cannot be measured.

I am happy to share the sources of my practice:

http://swamij.com/index-yoga-meditation-meditation.htm

Swami Rama’s meditation tape was the first one I ever bought back in 1987. Swami Rama has passed away, but his website contains his teachings, which are especially useful for beginning meditators and yogis/yoginis.

http://www.yogastudiesinstitute.org/?ind&PHPSESSID=38ec5707a0288e91f78232750931608e

Geshe Michael Roach and the Yoga Studies Institute have a truly powerful path for those who dare tread it. It is not easy -it’s Tibetan Buddhist yoga- but it is all that it promises to be. No, you don’t have to be ‘religious’ to take this path or give up your beliefs. You simply have to be prepared to do the work. 

Just like anything else in life.

Namaste.

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