By Sarah Willis
“I can’t do yoga; I can’t even touch my toes,” is a line I get often from people who have never tried the practice.
“Well, that’s not really the point or the goal of a yoga practice,” I begin, but they are already shaking their heads as if to say, Yeah, right.
“Can you breathe?” is my next question.
“Sure, of course.”
“Can you follow your breath with your awareness for five breaths at a time?”
Puzzled faces while attempting to do so accompany the reply, “Well, yes, I guess so…”
“Okay! Then you can do yoga!” I say with enthusiasm.
What do I mean by this?
Yoga exercises involve three main pillars: breathing, concentration and physical postures. Breathing deeply and evenly is a skill that we need to hone. Proper breathing has great physiological benefits, among them exercising the lungs—lead- ing to greater lung capacity and more oxygen available to the blood—and keeping the heart rate steady.
The ability to concentrate is something most stressed-out, screen-addicted modern people could do well to improve. Concentration is the ability to focus on one thing at a time. Since yoga exercises involve the entire body, concentration is essential. Certain postures require balancing on one foot, so if the mind is wandering, the body will be unstable. Other pos- tures involve stretching certain muscle groups beyond their present range of motion, and to do so safely, we must learn how to stabilize opposing muscle groups. For example, if we want to stretch the hamstring muscle at the back of the leg, we must engage the quadriceps at the front—agonist versus protagonist muscle groups.
Asanas, or the physical postures of yoga, range from simple to quite athletic and advanced. And they are fun. Yes, fun! You might not be able to get into a lotus pose or a handstand in your first lesson (it took me five years), but if your breathing and technique are correct, you will get there. It might take time, but then again, nothing worth having comes without some work, right? With a little stick-to-it-iveness and an open mind, we really can achieve anything.
I design custom yoga routines to help people achieve their fitness and wellness goals, since each person is unique and will respond to postures and exercises differently. I work with individuals or small groups in my private studio in Rhinebeck for five to ten sessions. It takes a few sessions for students to orient themselves to the way yoga works on their bodies, and as a teacher I guide students through their practice, observing them closely and assisting them as needed. It is inspiring to see the changes, and magic can happen! I have seen people over- come depression; insomnia; thyroid and other hormonal imbalances, including infertility issues; conquer weight gain; and break through blocks in their work and love lives. For me, and for many of my colleagues and clients whom I have had the benefit of working with and learning from for the last 17 years, yoga is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Come give it a try!
For more information, visit www.sarahwillis.com. Sarah can also be contacted at 917.509.4999 and sarahwillis26 @gmail.com.