When I tell people that I am a Yoga Instructor, it’s very common for someone to reply: “ I should do yoga, I’m so inflexible”. I usually smile and say very little in response. But in my heart, I want to say: First of all, drop the “should”. I want to see more people in the world who are driven by an inner passion, following their heart into action, without being bound by culture, idealism, or the perpetual, unforgiving notion of how we “should” be. Yoga will benefit your body. At times you may leave your mat feeling euphoric. You may find freedom in your movements, space in your joints, and increased mobility. But, this is not the heart of yoga. This is not the only thing that keeps passionate students coming back, or what inspires some of us to dive deeper and foster the ability to learn the meaning of this ancient practice and share it with others.
“Feel the energy of your inner body. Immediately mental noise slows down or ceases. Feel it in your hands, your feet, your abdomen, your chest. Feel the life that you are, the life that animates the body. The body becomes a doorway, so to speak, into a deeper sense of aliveness underneath the fluctuating emotions and underneath your thinking” ~ Ekhart Tolle
The practice of yoga is not only about creating flexibility in your body. It’s an invitation to become more of who you really are. It invites your awareness into the present moment. It’s about spirituality, mind-body connection and self-awareness. It’s about clarity and personal growth. It’s about compassion and truth. It’s about kindness; real kindness. Kindness to yourself, to others, to the world.
One of the reasons that I teach yoga is because I want to help alleviate the burden of stress in our world. Our culture carries a lot of stress. It becomes “normal” in the collective consciousness to be in a constant state of alertness and activity. This causes continual wear and tear on our bodies, our minds, and depletes the amount of energy that we have available to contribute to our quality of life. This heightened state within the body often occurs just below the conscious level. A lot of us are walking around in a perpetual state of “fight-or-flight”, or a stimulated nervous system response, without even realizing it, because it has come to feel “normal”.
All styles of yoga will help to build awareness and balance the energy and systems of the body; however, I have been drawn to teaching some of the more slower paced practices; to provide contrast and balance to the constant activity, stimulation, and demands on the body that can occur as a result of a busy life. Although I enjoy more active styles of yoga when the time is right, I am teaching more YIN and RESTORATIVE yoga these days. There are some fundamental differences in these two styles of practice, and their physiological impact on the body, but there are many parallels and similarities. Both of these practices involve releasing into stillness, using supportive props, and remaining in the postures for a period of time; often 3-5 minutes.
In a Restorative Yoga class, props are used to completely support the weight of the body, inviting the nervous system to shift from a sympathetic response to stress (“Fight-or-Flight”) into a parasympathetic response (“Rest and Digest”). This inspires the body to restore a natural state of balance, and can help alleviate the effects of chronic stress and the strain it places on the body over time. This is a nurturing practice and involves a deep state of relaxation.
In a Yin Yoga class, the student may experience some of these benefits to the nervous system; however, there is slightly more stimulation. Yin Yoga involves placing a healthy and deliberate amount of stress on the more dense tissues of the body to encourage these tissues to remain strong and healthy, and to facilitate gradual lengthening and release in the fascia and deeper layers of connective tissue.
Each of these practices offer an opportunity to slow down, connect to your breath, and bring balance to the body and mind, which can carry over to a more balanced life.
Jodi has been teaching yoga in the Whistler and Squamish area for 7.5 years. She is a Yoga Alliance E-RYT 500 and Continuing Education Provider. She teaches Restorative Yin at North Yoga on Tuesday evenings 8:00 – 9:15 pm, and Saturdays 11:30 – 12:45 pm. She is also offering a 40 Hour training on the foundations of Yin & Restorative Yoga March 9 – 12th at North Yoga. Contact Jodi Dodd Yoga, or North Yoga Squamish for more information.