My mom was definitely one of these women way ahead of the trend! When I was 3 years old, my mom started a yoga group in our house with some neighborhood moms. She had met a woman at my preschool who had studied yoga in India for three years. She was so intrigued by what the woman said and the health of her body that she decided to try it herself. One of the women in the group was a freelance writer for Bazaar Magazine and in 1968 wrote an article about this hip group of women who practiced yoga together.
On sick days from school, or vacation days, I got to practice yoga with the group. I can remember doing the butterfly, headstand and lying on the floor in shivasana at the end. When I had a friend over to my house, I remember sitting on the steps watching the class finish in “shivasana,” which is lying flat on the floor using breath and visualization to restore the body to a relaxed state. My 4 year-old friend asked, “Are they dead?”
It’s odd -- messages I got as a kid have stuck and have been an unbelievable benefit. I rely upon many of those messages when I’m healing! While most people are not sensitive to the needs of their bodies, my life is just the opposite. My life revolves around the constant need for healing my body. And yoga is part of my health insurance. Scientific research at Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia showed that levels of cortisol, also called the stress hormone, dropped in yoga students. Yogic practices also help to reduce muscle tension and deactivate the stress response. For diabetes management, keeping good control of stress is extremely beneficial.
A couple of years ago I needed to lower my stress level about 1,000 notches, and I walked back into doing yoga. Over the years, I have been in and out of yoga classes. I never gravitated to yoga at the gym. I always loved seasoned yoga instructors who worked the magic of what I call classic yoga. Classic yoga is about body, mind and spirit, not emphasizing power and strength. Anyone who has traditional training in yoga realizes strength is part of the process -- you can’t possibly put your foot around your head if you don’t have strength. Trust me! In teaching classic or traditional yoga, teachers use what is called the eight limbs of yoga: yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawl of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and Samadhi (absorption). When you look at the names, imagine each pose carries an intention to incorporate the above words. To explain some of them, restraint is about social values of non-violence, truth, appropriate behavior and non possessiveness. Observances are personal ethics, contentment, self study and surrendering to a higher power. Pratyahara is referring to turning your attention inward, allowing no distraction of the mind from the posture, or, in other words, “mindfulness”!