Yoga Renews the Body, Mind, and Spirit
by Susan Gingell
Teachers at the studio encourage students
to work from the inner body while respecting the teacher that is within each one of us.
Amid the stresses and strains of contemporary life and the challenges to our health created by a chemical-ridden environment, many of us are looking for ways to nurture, nourish, and renew our bodies, minds, and spirits. The practice of yoga provides a way to do all three.
Focusing on the rhythms of our breath, watching the inhale and exhale, noticing where in the body the breath moves and where and when it catches, our minds grow quieter, our bodies respond by relaxing, and our spirits find the space in which to stir, or be soothed, according to our needs. “Yoga”, a word from the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit, comes from the root word “yuj”, meaning to yoke, and the way breathing practice eases the mind and gentles or enlivens the spirit illustrates how mind, body, and spirit are yoked.
The practice of physical postures, known as “asana”, requires the mind to focus on finding the alignment that allows for ease in the poses. Working from the inner body takes us deeper into ourselves and opens us to greater self-knowledge, a knowledge that grows as we become aware of how we practice. Do we push ourselves to do the poses that others seem to do with so much ease until we hurt ourselves because competitive character and reckless inattention got the better of us, or do we practice rather lazily, never finding where and how our bodies, minds, and spirits might open to fuller life?
We do our yoga like we live our lives, one of my yoga teachers once told me. So, if we come to consciousness of how we practice, might we learn to be gentler with and more respectful of our bodies? Or if in observing our practice, we learn that we are inclined to hold back so that we ever know all that that we are capable of, might we not be guided mindfully to exert ourselves a little more?
For many who come to yoga looking for greater flexibility or just plain exercise, yoga delivers what they were looking for, but they find it comes with bonuses. Establishing an exercise program is easier for most people if they don’t have to do it alone, and yoga classes have helped many stick with the practice and given them a community as well. Moreover, learning to free the breath leads to feelings of peacefulness, reinvigorates the body, and awakens one’s whole being to full life.
Particular health benefits are associated with particular postures. Practising twists, for example, allows us to wring the toxins from our inner organs, and drinking pure water following such a practice flushes the poisons from our bodies. Backbends can have the effect of lifting our spirits when we are down. Inversions, which facilitate the flow of blood to the brain, nourish that organ and the upper body without taxing the heart to pump the blood against gravity. But such postures are best learnt under an experienced teacher, who will know for example, to help the student doing headstands or handstands to protect the heart but not push it too far forward and harden it.
There are many studios in Saskatoon where people can explore the multiple benefits of yoga, and now there is a new space called The Yoga Mat for those looking for a warm and welcoming community, a bright and pleasant physical space in which to practice, with skilled and experienced instructors. “Our teachers are all highly trained,” says Sharie Ryon, who is one of the staff. “And they have learned how to adapt poses to make yoga accessible for those with restrictions, injuries, and chronic conditions.” Teachers at the studio encourage students to work from the inner body while respecting the teacher that is within each one of us.
The Yoga Mat, #4-501 Gray Ave., Saskatoon, off Central Avenue in Sutherland, offers classes every day except Sunday, and there is an appropriate level of class whether you are a novice or have a well-established practice, or are looking for Vinyasa (Flow) or Gentle Yoga. The studio also hosts occasional workshops for all levels of students. For information about classes and workshops call (306) 652-YOGA (9642) or drop by the studio. And watch for the launch of their website soon.
Susan Gingell has practiced yoga for 15 years, graduated a 200-hour teacher training program in Iyengar style directed by Patricia Dewar and Mary Lou Weprin (The Yoga Room in Berkeley) and regularly teaches both yoga and academic classes at the University of Saskatchewan, as well as teaching yoga from time to time at The Yoga Mat Studio. For more information on The Yoga Mat Studio see the colour display ad on page 14 of the 15.4 November/December
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.