What is Yoga? Why is there so much talk about the benefits of Yoga practice? Can Anyone do Yoga? What if you are disabled or have an illness? Can I do Yoga if I am not flexible? These are some of the questions that people ask me about Yoga.

Yoga is a practice, which originated in India over three thousand years ago. The word Yoga means "to yoke or to join together". The joining refers to increasing awareness of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. By using the breath, and bringing attention to the way that you breathe, you can begin to quiet the mind and produce a feeling of relaxation. In only six deep breaths, the brain begins to secrete a chemical that produces a relaxation response. The slow, purposeful breathing used in a Yoga class is the first step toward bringing the body to a healthier place. With practice, as the body receives the message that it is safe to relax, a feeling of peace and calmness follows. You are able to heal and bring optimal health to your own body when your mind and body are relaxed.

Many people hold some tension in the body. Maybe you have a "pain in the neck," or a problem with your back; chronic headache, joint pain, tendonitis...these are just a few of the aches or pains that people of any age may live with every day. The practice of Yoga, on a regular basis, can help to relieve some of these discomforts, by bringing attention to the way your body in standing, seated, or other positions. Hatha Yoga focuses on bringing balance and strength to both the left and right side of the body, the front and the back, upper and lower. As the body comes into balance, and structural alignment, the areas where you hold tensions are frequently able to relax, or to ease up a bit, and pain begins to diminish. This happens because energy is able to flow throughout the body with ease. When the body is tight or restricted, energy flow to certain areas becomes blocked, and dis-ease may follow.

Combining the Yoga stretch, (or asana poses) with breath work can create flexibility in previously tight or restricted areas of the body. As the body begins to release tension and gain physical strength, other changes will usually follow. For example, it becomes easier to relax, to still the mind, and to calm the emotions. You can always return to the practice of deep, conscious breathing, and bringing the body into alignment, no matter where you are, to help yourself deal with an upsetting situation or a stressful event.

If you can breathe, you can do Yoga. What a powerful statement! There is no competition in Hatha Yoga. Each person works at the best of their ability. It is important to honor the suggestion of pain, so if you feel any pain or cramping in the muscles, you ease out of the pose, take a deep breath, then try to return to the pose. You alone are responsible for honoring your body in the practice of Yoga.

Namaste. (I honor your spirit.)
Dianne Evans Tousignant
Certified/Registered Yoga Instructor