by Kate Lundquist, guest columnist, the Wellness Cricket
Many people have asked me why I practice the asanas (physical postures) in yoga. I usually find this difficult to respond to because it is such an integral part of my life. Nearly every day I spend at least 20 minutes practicing, and I aim to practice for at least an hour or more. Sometimes it is comical because others say, “Oh, I like to stretch, too”. But yoga is more than stretching. Though it does increase flexibility, it also builds strength and challenges the body and mind. If you look at pictures of an advanced practitioner, it is incredible what they can do with the strength of holding up their own body, the extreme flexibility to get into difficult asanas, and then to be able to hold them and breathe.
We constantly ask so much of ourselves throughout the day. Have you noticed the stress that builds while you are working on a paper or the shortening of breath when you find yourself fearful of what will happen after college? Here is where the practice of yoga steps in. As we contort ourselves in daily lives, so do we in the asanas. As we learn focus, concentration, and relaxation while in difficult poses, we transfer this learned knowledge to daily life. Next time you find yourself stressing out remember it is within yourself to take a few deep breaths and breathe through the discomfort of the moment.
Tip of the Week:
Begin your day with this sequence: Child’s pose, Cat/Cow, a few sun salutations, and at least one balancing pose. You can easily Google these poses or attend a class to find out what they are! Feel free to read this to yourself as a meditation: “Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
Another reason why I try to practice every day is the humbleness and gratitude that one can receive from one’s practice. Rolling off my bed and onto my mat (on the mornings my roommate is at work), I immediately find child’s pose with arms outstretched and palms face up. I wake up with my offering of thanks to the sun for the day and the gift of breath that fills my body. Moving through a simple practice in the morning is a wonderful way to wake up the body and mind, honoring yourself and whatever you are grateful for. Give this morning dedication a try over the next few weeks as we finish our fall semester. Stay grounded during the late nights finishing projects and excitement for winter break.
I could name hundreds of reasons why I practice. Certainly the positive effects on the emotional body, the detoxifying quality of twists and inversions, and the dance-like movements that filled my life as a dancer. Also, doing extreme arm balances are exhilarating and force me to think of nothing else but breathing deeper and balancing in the pose. When you think you cannot do a pose and then do it, you realize you are so much more capable than you give yourself credit for.
But the truth of it breaks down to a way for me to stay grounded through all the transitions in life, when life is stressing you to the bone and when you are bored to death of it all. There is something beautiful in dedicating yourself to something greater than your ego. If nothing else, find gratitude in this moment for the breath that fills you and the life you are given. We are so lucky to be here with one another.