“I feel like I’ve just had my first yoga class, “says Fran, a mom of three and a well-toned yoga practitioner of some experience. “I feel great.” Fran is sensing the immediate benefits of her yoga practice, currently based at Park Cities Yoga on Lovers Lane.
As a mother of three, Fran is like a lot of people. Working moms juggle getting their kids to school on time, meeting deadlines, business travel, soccer practice, ballet, groceries, visits to the vet and dentist . . . you know the routine. All this running around doesn’t mean simply that they’re busy; it means that their minds are racing ahead or behind nearly constantly. It means worrying about the cascade of events triggered by your first grader forgetting his lunch. It means anticipating the necessary daily care for your invalid mother. It means fighting to maintain an even keel in the face of overwhelming demands and information.
For more than 16 million Americans, yoga is their not-so-secret weapon to help them do what needs to be done. Whether you are a working mom or a working man, whether you drive a Benz or a bus, whether you perform surgery or Beethoven, yoga is a way to simplify your life. For yoga devotees, yoga is the tool to transform regret and worry into the comfort of the here and now.
Take Elaine, also a Park Cities Yoga client, as another example. “I was a triple-A personality type. Now I handle situations differently. I take a conscious breath and I focus on the moment, not the what-ifs. Yoga has helped me be gracious in stress.”
One misperception about yoga is that you already need to be flexible and athletic to do it. That is not the case. Start with what you’ve got. Can’t touch your toes? Just reach for them and breathe. Can’t do a backbend? Place a small pillow under your back and breathe. Or just start with meditation coupled with conscious breathing. You can start with easy poses progressing to challenging feats of flexibility and strength, if you so desire. No matter your level of ability and experience, conscious breathing and personal guidance from an experienced yoga instructor can help you reach your goals.
That means you can practice yoga if you’re pregnant, middle-aged, retired, sick, recovering, injured, overweight, over-stressed, overbearing, or over-easy. You can practice mornings, afternoons, or evenings. Start simply.
The best way to begin your yoga practice may not be watching a yoga video. Thousands of yoga videos collect dust. And the simplest way may not be to jump into a session that demands too much too fast. The simplest way is to find the right class and the right teacher for you. If you don’t know all about the styles of yoga, then discuss your own limitations or conditions with the instructor and ask about how you might fit in to what they offer. Ask about pace, physical demand, level of intensity, etc. Call around. In Dallas there are yoga classes for all levels, ages, and conditions. With just a little research, you’re sure to find what’s right for you.
Fran started as a weightlifter. “That’s what got me into trouble. I was in so much pain in my hips. I went to my first power yoga class. I loved it. It was letting go, a big simplification. You don’t even need shoes for yoga.”
But is yoga enough of a workout? “The power yoga was an all-inclusive workout. I got cardio, cleansing (I was sweating like a pig), stretching and strength using my entire body.
Her story with yoga changes, however, as she grows into it. Fran’s friend Vashti agrees that a person’s yoga practice changes over time. “Yoga is an amazing form of exercise, but it’s something more, too. Look, people study 80 years or more doing this. They have gone into the mountains in their pursuit of yoga. I have to be a little reverent about it.”
That being said, yoga is not a religion or belief system. Yoga is a practice of “putting yourself together” in the present moment. It’s a system of exercises that unify breath, attention, and the body. In fact, the word yoga means “to yoke, to put together, a union.” You can practice yoga as a Catholic, a born-again Baptist, a Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu, Unitarian, Agnostic. Whatever your spiritual orientation, yoga can enhance your life by bringing it all together.
Fran observes, “After one year it became more than a physical workout. That’s when I began to progress. I began to see yoga as applicable to something more – life! I quit making things so difficult. Yoga led me to quit drinking. Yoga put that into action.”
Fran isn’t alone. Many of the clients at Park Cities Yoga report changes in their physical health and in their overall sense of well-being – changes they attribute to their yoga practice. It’s not surprising then that this thousands-year-old tradition persists, and continues to grow here in America.
The tradition first came to Texas in 1967 when Kumar Pallana, a performer and yogi, first opened the Dallas Yoga and Health Centre. Now at age 87 he has more energy than people half his age. You might recognize Kumar as the loveable old man in films such as Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tennenbaums, and Rushmore. Most recently, he charmed Catherine Zeta-Jones as the ring-juggling Gupta in Steven Speilberg’s The Terminal. As full of stories as he is wisdom, Kumar reminds his yoga students that “yoga develops strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, health, concentration, confidence, self-satisfaction, and peace of mind.” Kumar is a walking example of yoga’s benefits. After all, how many 87-year-olds do you know that follow up a six-week film shoot with nation-wide promotion tours and yoga seminars, interspersed with trips to visit family and friends in India?
Yoga may not turn you into a movie star like Kumar (but who knows? Maybe it will). At the very least, yoga will deliver what you put into it. Best of all, yoga can simplify your life.