The benefits of a regular yoga practice are often repeated in my posts, and if you will indulge me I will repeat them again now. Yoga is one of the easiest (yes, easiest) ways to get yourself balanced both inside and out. It is still physical, meaning it incorporates movement so your heart and lungs get to work and at the same time it requires gentle focus, letting you work on one “asana” (pose) at a time. Well, ideally that is how it’s supposed to be. Nowadays, there are many forms of yoga, the most commercial of which promise you a fat burning, cardio increasing workout. Those are great for those who are at that level, and yes, you can have that “yoga butt” if you really want to and feel the burn. I’ve found though that many who have practiced with speed and almost acrobatic like moves end up (through time) getting injured because they haven’t built their pose foundations properly. Instead of correctly using their muscles and their breath (or at times even using the correct muscles and the breath) they just switch on to auto pilot and use strength and momentum to go from one pose to another. Improperly done this leads to muscle wear and tear, and even worse, pain that may turn them off yoga forever. Which for me, is a royal shame. Yoga can be a firm, yet gentle practice, one that allows adjustment; you are not trying to look exactly like your instructor or your mat-mate during your asanas, you are trying to feel the best you can whenever you are in a sitting, standing, lying or inverted position. And, on top of that you are trying to get maximum benefit for YOU.
This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Urban Ashram Manila’s FNR (Flexibility Not Required) classes. I have been a rather inconsistent yoga practitioner for about 6 years now, getting into it, then getting out of it. I’m relatively flexible but my upper body strength is something that has always been a challenge for me. Oh, and of course, my core, which I never use (or at least it doesn’t feel like I use it). When I was younger, doing astanga yoga, jumping through poses was like an exercise for me, it was “easy” because I was strong enough and fit enough to just go from one to another with an athlete’s ability. Thing was, I wasn’t really building strength I was just just finishing the class as best as I could. So, when I was invited to what was considered a beginners class for vinyasa about three months ago I felt so let down when I was losing my breath and falling all over the place when I couldn’t hold my poses. Or, I was literally collapsing into them. Suffice to say I never went back to that particular class.
Anusara, a heart opening practice became my next choice and I enjoyed its gentleness and meditative benefits, it certainly gave me a lot more openness in my postures and made me more conscious of the way I stood and sat. I did feel that I wanted more though after a year of practicing it, so I decided to try out a class of FNR in Urban Ashram’s newly opened quarters in the Fort (their first one is in Brixton St., Kapitolyo). Our teacher for that day, Marc, was the one who thought of and put into action this particular practice. It really felt like I was re-learning all my basics, in a good way. I had not really been taught what was the right way to go from pose to pose and what to “feel” . That was the most important aspect as you need to feel your muscles work (this is partly muscle memory anyway right?) and if you weren’t using the right ones, or knowing how to use them you could end up straining your knees, your ankles your neck and shoulders. He also showed me that for my body type that I had to make minute adjustments to get into and keep a pose with more strength and less effort. It was pretty amazing. Tiring at first, but I could feel the change right away. Within a month of regular practice in this 75 min class (it’s great to begin your mornings with it) I was doing poses that I had long struggled with, and I’m talking years of not being able to do them with confidence.
What can I say? Get on that mat, and do it the right way with FNR. You can be any level in your practice, from zero to yoga hero and still benefit from loving corrections to your body and soul.
For more information go to: www.urbanashrammanila.com Or call (02) 661 YOGA / 0917 881 YOGA