Accidental yoga: it can happen to you

Accidental yoga: it can happen to you
November 2003
By Melissa Borotto

Yoga is not just for women, skinny people, the physically fit, mental meditation giants, or for the extremely healthy. Yoga is for everyone and is limited to no one, according to yogi Siri Om Singh.

The misconceptions about Yoga are all true and at the same time they are all false. It is difficult to believe that you might enjoy yoga when you are flipping the channel at home and come across some hokey yoga person as skinny as can be who is talking with a super corny voice that is supposed to be serene. She also happens to be in a head to toe spandex unitard in front of some exotic beach with weird Polynesian elevator music in the background. The thought enters your mind, “Yeah right, like I would ever be caught doing yoga like this whack job.”

So yes it is true that yoga is serene and relaxing but despite popular myth, Spandex is not required. Also it is not mandatory that you talk in a slow whisper. For the most part, yoga has no limits and can be studied at any level. The important thing to remember is to ask questions when you don’t understand. You might feel a little funny at first, but once you realize that everyone else is doing the same thing as you, it is easier to relax. Once you do relax yoga can become peaceful.

Siri Om Singh, yogi, calls his introduction to yoga an accident, one that ended up changing the way he lives his life. In the beginning, Singh thought that yoga was difficult, especially when, on a retreat, he found out that he would have to get up very early in the morning. But what struck him from the very beginning and stayed with him is the feeling he got when he practiced yoga.

“When the leader said we were going to have early morning practice, I did not find out until I got there that it was four in the morning—little early,” says Singh. “It was actually very peaceful, getting up early in the morning and being silent.”

Singh says that the major keys to yoga are to breathing, being silent, and concentrating mentally. These things are all possible for anyone who wants to practice yoga. No matter what physical shape you are in, everyone can understand the basic concepts and values. The simplistic practices of breathing correctly and deeply allow the mind flexibility as well as the body. The silence allows the meditation to become fluid with a combination of breathing deeply and correctly the body automatically calms down.

I found the breathing to be very challenging. The “breath of fire” seemed to be particularly hard for me. This move involved breathing very rapidly in and out while pulling your stomach in and out with each breath. Next to Siri Om, who has mastered the breath of fire, I felt like I was hyperventilating. Keeping a correct posture seems like it would be easy because I generally think that my posture is good. However, while practicing yoga, posture was not very easy for me—I could have been the Hunchback of Notre Dame for all intents and purposes. Despite the awkward feeling, Siri Om assured me that I was doing well for a beginner.

Siri Om chose out of the many different kinds of yoga to practice Kundalini. This type of yoga is fairly physical; however, it is not limiting for those with less flexibility. The reason for this, which Singh feels is very important to get across, is because the spiritual aspect of yoga is just as important at the physical.

“The mind’s natural response to activity is to move,” said Singh. “The mind is always moving and in yoga philosophy, in order to be fully intoned—fully integrated into the present—one must dedicate him or herself to quieting the mind through meditation and disciplining the mind. Therefore when you discipline the mind you gain control over the body.”

The physical poses of yoga can be difficult. They require some strength, flexibility, and control. This does not mean that it is hard to start. Yoga is designed to evolve over time and as many things, says Singh, it does get easier with practice and time.

As a beginner, I did see that I might possibly become better with practice. By the end of the lesson I already found myself becoming accustomed to the different poses and the concentration that yoga requires. The best thing about the lesson was that while I was concentrating on how to move my body, I was not worrying about deadlines, schedules and other stresses in my life. I was able to take my mind off the pressures that occur in a day and because of this I found yoga to be very calming and peaceful.

Although I am not a serious student of yoga, I saw the appeals that yoga holds for many people, like Siri Om, who consider it a way of life. Some may take yoga more seriously then others by living by all the yoga philosophies. They include those early morning practices as well as giving up meat. Others may only practice yoga occasionally instead of everyday. Whatever the commitment, if done correctly, yoga is sure build better posture, lower stress, and instill a peaceful out look.

If you think about it, in a stressful situation it helps to step back and take a deep breath. That is what yoga is all about looking at life from a different angle and relaxing. Yoga focuses on what you can control in a difficult situation, and that is yourself.