|Yoga instructor Lori Edwards strikes a pose.|
I first got into yoga because of my aching back. Diagnosed with scoliosis at a young age, doctors told me I would never dance or play sports and it was likely that I would need a back brace to correct the lateral curvature in my spine. Mortified with the thought of wearing a metal contraption to school and facing the ridicule of my fellow classmates, I begged my parents to let me try alternative medicine, i.e., chiropractics, acupuncture, and movement therapy. I found that when I practiced yoga, I was able to alleviate some of the pain and discomfort of my scoliosis and was able to move in ways I never thought possible. I continued to practice yoga on and off for 25 years before I decided to complete a teacher training program and share my love of yoga with others.
As a certified Massage Therapist, I have spent years studying anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology and I know that movement is essential to long-term health and well-being. Through exercise, we develop strength in our muscles and bones, flexibility in our joints and tendons, improved circulation, and a natural endorphin rush that positively alters our mood and emotional state. Through exercise we massage the internal organs, strengthen our heart, and improve our lung capacity. Exercise decreases stress, prevents disease, and slows the aging process.
But why practice yoga? What makes yoga different than stretching? Yoga is mindful, focused stretching, and much different than the five to ten minutes of ineffectual stretching usually practiced at the end of most fitness classes you might take at your local gym. Yoga can be practiced anywhere, at any time, and with minimal or no equipment. It is the perfectly portable exercise. Yoga stretches every part of the body and develops strength and balance at the same time.
Yoga creates balance, which, to me, is the key, to yoga. Yoga shows us how easily we can become unbalanced. One day a pose is easy and the next day it is difficult. Just like the challenges of everyday life, yoga shows us that nothing is constant and that we must continue to adapt to change as we encounter it. Yoga creates balance of the body, but also of the mind and of the soul. When we “come to the mat”, we are making a mindful decision to focus on nourishing the body, mind, and soul. In yoga, we connect our breath to our movement, and focus our minds on our bodies. We look internally and allow the distractions of the world to fade into the background so that we can allow our subconscious minds to come to the forefront, thereby showing us the nature of our innermost desires, feelings, and thoughts. In yoga, we find our true selves, free from the encumbrances of the outside world.
Why do I keep practicing yoga? I practice because yoga nourishes my body creating freedom of movement. Yoga nourishes my mind allowing me to quiet the never-ending battery of thought that clouds my judgment. Yoga nourishes my soul showing me who I really am and allowing me to explore the endless possibilities of what may be. I am not one of those yoga instructors who can stay in headstand for 20 minutes. To me, yoga is not about the perfect pose. Yoga is not about perfection. There is no perfection in yoga. Yoga is about creating balance. If I can find balance today by practicing one pose, one breathing exercise, or by utilizing one yogic principle, then yoga will have had a profound and positive effect on my day. I may not even “come to the mat” today and that’s ok. I take my yoga with me wherever I go. And guess what, you can too.
Lori Anne Edwards is a Certified Massage Therapist and Yoga Instructor in the Los Angeles, CA area. To take a yoga class or to book a massage appointment, please visit her on the web at www.lorianneedwards.com