Yoga for fun and enlightenment
by Laura Brookover
So many yoga classes are now offered in fitness centers. Men and women pack into the classes with 10, 20 sometimes even 30 people attending at one time to stretch, strengthen, twist, turn, streamline the body, de-stress the mind and uplift the spirit.
Last week at my yoga class, we took a break from our ordinary routine to do what I like to call “stupid yoga tricks.” When I say that, I don’t mean to imply negativity but rather frivolity, even hilarity and just plain good fun. Some of the poses in yoga are just so funny-looking and next-to-impossible for the average person to do that they are rarely included in any normal yoga fitness class.
These are the ones that seem to make us giggle, to bring out our “inner child,” if you will … our sense of adventure and play. If nothing else, when we practice these more difficult poses, we can consider it an exercise in humility. And this is how I teach my students to lighten up and to begin to approach yoga class with less of the self-consciousness and perfectionism that our image-oriented culture has instilled and with more of a sense of wonder.
It is this sense of lightness, not just the postures, which I hope to share with others. As spring comes to the earth, bringing warmth and lightness, most of us are looking to “lighten up” in terms of pounds. Why not make an inner attitude adjustment and lighten up in spirit first? It is my experience that the body does follow the lead of the mind and spirit, and changing your attitude and lightening the spirit is a much more pleasurable way to make a lasting change.
Play at yoga
For each year that yoga has existed (it’s estimated at least 3,000 years) there have been innumerable styles of yoga to learn and even a greater number of instructors to provide variations of those styles. Instead of worrying about perfect alignment, I tell my students that the Sanskrit base of the word Yoga is “yuj” meaning “to yoke or unite.” This means to unite your body with your mind and spirit–not with anyone else’s. So, in fact, there is no perfect way to do yoga. However, there is one “wrong” way: You’re doing it wrong if you feel pain.
When we practice yoga, we feel stretching. We feel strengthening. If we feel genuine pain, that is our body’s way of saying, “Stop!” And since the whole process of yoga is about uniting with one’s own consciousness, listening to our body’s cues is paramount.
So have at it! Give it a whirl. Use these photos as a visual guide, and then find your own playful path to uniting body, mind and spirit.
TRIKONASANA (Triangle Pose)
Instructions: Look, learn and laugh. Modification: If the stretch is too much, bend the front knee. Benefits: Strengthens the core, lengthens the legs, develops balance and improves circulation. This is good posture for affecting an attitude adjustment, for involved is a partial inversion (inversions promote hormone balance and can help ease and divert depression).
VASISTASANA (Side Plank)
Instructions: Make sure this does not hurt your wrists. Whichever leg is on top can be placed slightly forward (see photo) with the supporting leg slightly behind. This creates a stable triangle with the legs and hips. Modification: You may be able to modify this by balancing on your forearm instead of your hand. Benefits: An amazing toner that especially targets the triceps and oblique abdominals … firming the forearm, trimming the waist just in time to “lighten up” for summer!
NAVASANA (Boat Pose)
Instructions: Keep the core drawn in as you keep the shins relatively parallel to the ground, while keeping the back as straight as possible. If this sounds like patting your head while rubbing your tummy, it is. Just do your best, and it will all fall into place with practice. Hint: Enjoy the fun of balancing and falling off balance. Remember when you learned how to ride a bike? Wasn’t the wobbliness and an occasional spill half of the excitement? Benefits: Tummy tuck extraordinaire!
Laura Brookover is a body-mind trainer. She teaches EmPOWERment Yoga at Destination Maternity (210) 694-4692, and Bikini Bootcamp at Spectrum, Rogers Ranch (210) 408-9050. For more information visit her Web site at www.laurabrookover.com. Photos by Jenn Brookover Photography.