Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Preserving Style: Yoga

"Yoga, the oldest science of life, can teach you to bring stress under control—not only on a physical level, but on mental and spiritual levels too. The human body can be compared to a car. There are five things that any automobile needs to run properly, whether it is a Rolls Royce or a rusty old car—lubrication, a cooling system, electric current, fuel and a sensible driver behind the wheel. (1) In yoga, the asanas or postures lubricate the body. They keep the muscles and joints running smoothly, tone all the internal organs, and increase circulation, without creating any fatigue. (2)The body is cooled by complete relaxation whilst pranayama or (3)yogic breathing increases prana, the electric current. (4) Fuel is provided by food, water, and the air you breathe. Lastly you have (5)meditation which stills the mind, the driver of the body. By meditating, you learn to control and ultimately transcend the body—your physical vehicle...The object of concentration can be different but the technique remains the same. The first yogis sought answers to two fundamental questions—“How can I get rid of pain?” and “How can I conquer death?” They discovered that through asanas you can control the physical pain, through pranayama the emotional pain, and through meditation you can come to a real understanding of who you are. Free from false identification with name and form, you can transcend the body altogether and find the Self which is immortal. So you see, though Yoga begins with the body it ends by transcending it." [Adapted from The Book of Yoga: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide by Lucy Lidell. Copyright © 1983 by The Sivandanda Yoga Vedanta Cenre]

-H.H. Sri Swami Sivananda - Born in 1887, Swami Sivananda was a great yogi and sage who devoted his life to the service of humanity and the study of Vedanta. His prescription for a spiritual life is summed up in six simple commands: “Serve. Love. Give. Purify. Meditate. Realize.”

Long time advocate of Yoga supermodel, Christi Turlington, has served as a shining beacon of the synergy between beauty and yoga.  

Per the last bolded statement from the passage above, it is this view of yoga that I have come to discover for myself after practicing it for so long. It’s been a little over half a year since I started back to the practice of yoga, and I have advanced to be concentrated enough to perform a controlled handstand and hold it for a good three seconds so far (my goal being to be able to hold it for 20 seconds by the end of the year). I discovered the powerful effects of yoga in high school when I ran track. Now, I have always been a limber person (a real freak of nature, I've been able to do the splits since I was in first grade), but I used yoga as a means to stretch and become more limber, as I was a hurdler and high jumper. After doing yoga for a few weeks, I found how the power and effect of yoga spreads past more than just increased flexibility. I would be dedicated, practicing yoga in the early morning before I went to school following the yoga programs On Demand in the "fitness" section.  I had realized that the sensational energy I would acquire after my yoga sessions was simply addictive, and I used yoga as my fix to gain that high I wanted for the day. A high where I was more aware and attentive to my bodies daily movements, and I had more focus and control over how my body functioned as well! As I mentioned in my Letter From the Editor I have come to a point in my life where I am willing to accept pain and focus only on diverting my mind away from it so I can become stronger physically and mentally, and I've learned how to do that through yoga.

Yoga and Basketball
With yoga I realized, now and in high school, that practicing yoga can be an excellent supplement to other competitive and challenging forms of fitness (I.e. Basketball, football, track), for with increased concentration and awareness of your body functions your mind will become more accustomed to surpassing pain thresholds, allowing for a greater range of motion, and you will reach a higher plateau for yourself in getting to your next level of your potential! Aside from competitive sports, yoga also helps in everyday life, for as I revealed in my recent Style Maven post for Karlie Kloss, being the tall person I am, I can be quite clumsy at times, but yoga gives me that easy concentration I need in my everyday dealings to keep myself in check and make more graceful, calculated, and tactful movements—movements that keep me from looking foolish and uneasy. I can definitely tell the difference in my acuteness to my range of motion from when I stopped doing yoga, to now being that I am back in the swing of my practices.  

The secret to it all is all in literally in the breathe! When you meditate on holding your poses and doing them with as much relaxation and poise as you see more experienced yogis, you realize you have to draw your strength from a deeper source within the body; that source comes from pulling air from as deep in your core as you can get it. Then you realize how to use that deep breathe to spread throughout the rest of the body for added strength and control. With more oxygen flowing through your blood stream because of your deeper breathing, I find your body is more willing to move where you need it to go. Instead of your body setting its limitations, yoga teaches your mind to set the limitations for your body, and it’s that control that the yogis tell us to search for so we can abstain from pain and transcend ourselves, and our bodily limits, to find out who we are as an independent individual to take on the challenges of our everyday lives. The same results that yoga seeks for us to find happen to coincide with the message I champion here on every day. When you are able to gain control of your mind, you can start to think with your heart, which will release your inner most inhibitions, your desires, and capabilities so you can let your style and personality work for you!

By motivating myself to get up and move in the mornings when my body doesn't want to, to stretch further than it wants to, to hold a pose longer than it wants to, to breath how it needs to breathe, I have an epiphany moment every day after going through a intense, but liberating practice session; the epiphany that I can do whatever I put my mind to! That's the high I get after yoga, for when I put myself through something I initially thought in the day I couldn't do, I realize that the challenges that come at me normally in the day can be dealt with in the same way I am able to stretch, and hold, and breathe through yoga. In my fashion, yoga really brings the phrase “mind over matter” to into a tangible context.  

In my fashion, our mind is truly much stronger than our bodies. Putting yourself through your own challenges and reaching your goals is the best act of strength in this life, for the greatest weakness is not having the willpower to accomplish what you know you need to do to get stronger and wiser as a person.

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