When I was about 20 or 21, I was a yoga dude. My college girlfriend and I had been studying yoga and meditation with (in retrospect) a crazed Greek teacher who managed to cobble together a blend of Eastern religion, yoga, and Christianity.
We used to drive around with him in a VW van with Christananda Ashram on the side. Yeah, it was weird, but this was 1969 and 1970, when weirdness permeated the San Francisco Bay Area, where we attended San Jose State College.
Here's a photo of me from my yoga days. I got pretty damn good at Hatha Yoga postures. Meditation, maybe not so much. But I became one of Yogiraj's lead students, until the weirdness went over the top in a dramatic health food store confrontation.
At any rate, I never forgot some of the many yoga postures that I learned back then. For many years I practiced a short yoga routine that I did at our athletic club after doing aerobic stuff, lifting weights, and some Tai Chi.
But in February of 2020 I developed a pretty serious sciatica problem in my right leg. An X-ray showed that my lower back just showed normal wear and tear for a 71-year-old. So the cause of the leg pain remains a mystery.
l'm much better now, thankfully. I've been doing physical therapy exercises every day, walking two miles up and down hills every day, and using home exercise equipment for strength building every day. Still...
When I realized a few weeks ago that I hadn't done my yoga routine for a long time, I got out my mat and gave it a try. Wow. I wasn't nearly as flexible as I was six months ago. Not a huge surprise, but it still shocked me -- since I'd been exercising so much and doing other kinds of stretches.
So I started doing my yoga routine every day also.
I'm already seeing some improvement, flexibility-wise. And it feels good to be doing the yoga moves. Wanting to broaden my repertoire, I downloaded several yoga apps for the iPhone. They were OK. I can see how many people would benefit from them. However, I concluded that I'd rather get back into yoga on my own, choosing my own postures, and doing them at my own speed.
That led me to buy the Yoga Bible.
It's got over 1,200 mostly positive reviews on Amazon. I took the advice of many reviews and had the book spiral bound at the FedEx copy center in Salem. That allows the pages to fold flat, making it much easier to follow directions while laying on my mat or standing up (the book stands up nicely also, after being spiral bound).
There's a nice overview of what yoga is all about in an introductory section. Here's some excerpts. I hadn't thought before that the body always is in the present moment, but this does make sense.
Yoga is actually a state of mind. Achieving the goal of stilling the mind is a tall order, so practices have been developed that allow you to move toward this state. Quieting the mind is a rather intangible goal.
In contrast, the progress made on accomplishing a yoga posture can be evaluated by alignment, length of stretch, and the length of time it can be held. It's much easier for you to relate to something tangible -- the body -- and then move on to something intangible -- the stillness of the mind.
During yoga practice, you begin somewhere known and, using your body and breath, you move toward an unknown. As you open your body and mind with yoga postures and breathing, you become receptive to the delightful and profound experience of inner stillness.
While the human mind tends to drift off into thoughts of the past or future, the human body exists only in the present moment. Hatha yoga, a type of yoga that emphasizes strenuous and persistent effort, encourages awareness of the body.
Coming back to your body draws your mind back to the present. Then, worries drop away and there are no more "shoulds" or "musts." One of the reasons yoga is so refreshing is that, even if only for an instant, there is only the reality of the present moment. Each time you come to the present moment, you drop a certain amount of baggage.
You may pick it up again shortly thereafter, but the point is that you have practiced letting it go. Eventually you will be able to reduce the stress more often and for longer periods of time.
In this respect, yoga is like life training. Its practice is a fabulous tool for transformation.
...However, yoga may be anything that gives you a sense of unity, helps you better connect with yourself, and helps you remember who you are. It might be a walk along the beach, a luxurious yawn, or simply taking a single conscious breath.
Any practice that helps you center yourself is important. When you operate from a space that is close to your center, it is easier to be calmer and more focused. Being off balance is a huge source of stress.
When things go wrong when you are already off balance, it is like swimming against a strong tide. The farther out you are, the harder it is to swim to shore.
Yet, distractions and sensory stimulation often cause you to look outward rather than gazing inward. The real challenge in life is to manage to stay "with" yourself while at the same time interacting with others; to respond appropriately to people and events while maintaining a sense of connection to yourself.