Unfortunately, there aren't any hot yoga classes in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota, so yesterday was my first hot yoga class since May. It's interesting how I felt walking in. I actually felt nervous! I hadn't had a strong practice in a long while and so I felt sort of, "bent out of shape" pun totally intended :). I wondered how my body would react to deep stretching and how my breath would be as well. I kind of hoped that my body would become super flexible like it usually did after a short break from yoga. Boy was I wrong!
I immediately noticed in my first cobra pose how tight the lower portion of my back and body was. I couldn't come up into the full cobra! I mean, it was really, really tight! It's during this realization that I had the option to react in one of two ways. I could become discouraged and angry with myself. Or, I could be more gentle with myself, more patient and understanding. I chose to feel awed by this condition of mine and I made an extra effort to be gentle to myself.... I knew that over time it would change. My body would become limber again. My back wouldn't ache. It's important to tell yourself this when you practice. That someday your body will become more limber, more healthy, pain free. Maybe it won't be in that first yoga class in your life or in my case, the last 6 months, but it will happen! Don't feel discouraged! Life is a journey and every second of it is sacred!
During my practice I couldn't help thinking about what I could learn from this and how I could apply it to the classes I offer to my yoga students. This whole experience was very humbling. What I mean is that when I'm teaching and practicing every single day while I am here in Sedona, my body becomes so limber and calm that over time I kind of forget what it feels like to do yoga for the first time, or to be tight in any part of my body. Experiencing a tight lower back and hamstrings once again reminded me of the whole emotional, mental, and physical roller-coaster that we all experience in our first class.
It's so very important to stretch our bodies on a daily basis. Apparently there is no excuse. I told myself over the past six months that work didn't allow me the time to do a daily sun salutations practice. That I was too tired. That I had too much to do. That sitting in lotus or stretching in the office was enough. Well... it wasn't haha. Honestly, I could have spared 15 minutes each morning to do the sun salutations. I could have spared 15 minutes mid-day or in the evening as well. If I had done so my body wouldn't ache now and I'd probably feel better about myself. This is a lesson learned and I hope to never forget it. After yesterday's practice I already feel lighter and more energized. I feel healthy and more vibrant.
My intention is to remember this humbling feeling I have from yesterday's practice and to treat my body like a temple, all of the time. Not just six months out of the year. This body of mine is my vehicle for transforming my life. I need it to be healthy and vibrant and strong, all of the time! And so do you! You are a special gift in the world. Treat yourself like the treasure you are and love your body and soul every morning by practicing the sun salutations. Even if it's just for 15 minutes.
The benefits of the sun salutations are immense. Our body posture can be an indicator of how we are feeling. We sit with our backs straight when we are alert; we slouch when we are tired, and so on. As we bring awareness into our bodies, we tend to change postures so we can get more comfortable. In turn, as we change postures it results in a spontaneous shift in our awareness. This feedback loop between body awareness and body positioning is part of the practice of yoga.
Yoga can revitalize your mind as well as your body. In general, yoga includes two of the major components of balanced fitness: flexibility and strength. If you add Sun Salutations to the mix, you incorporate the third major component of balanced fitness: cardiovascular conditioning.
Sun Salutations, known in Sanskrit as Surya Namaskar (pronounced Sir-yah- Namah-skar), are a series of movements that flow with the breath. They help strengthen the heart, improve circulation, and lengthen and strengthen all major muscles in the body. Sun Salutations have been described as the most complete exercise available.
Radiate Your Essential Self
Even if you do not have time to work out on a regular basis, performing Sun Salutations every day will bring vitality and aliveness into your life. The twelve poses included in the Sun Salutation series are designed to awaken the connection between the sun and your agni, or inner fire. As you kindle your inner fire, you can radiate your innate love and happiness out into the world.
As we perform Sun Salutations to celebrate the sun, we also celebrate life in general as well as our inner life and our connection with the universe. We celebrate life because the poses in the Sun Salutation series represent the full experience of life, with all its highs and lows, and beginnings and endings. We celebrate our inner life because we are ultimately beings of light, like the sun, and performing Sun Salutations rejoices in this aspect of our being. We celebrate our connection with the universe because the sun is the source of all life on this planet.
My request of you.... Give the sun salutations a shot every morning for the next 10 days. The following Sun Salutation sequence will increase your level of energy, nurture your connection with mind-body-spirit, and enhance your liveliness. If you have any questions about the poses please ask! And please share your experiences in the comment section! You're inspiring and I'd love to hear from you. Blessings to you on your journey ♥ ~ Ashley Cruz