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Yoga gets us out of our comfort zone for the good

Written by Stu Watson

A personal success story on starting yoga and achieving happiness moving out of your comfort zone.

Watching me try to cross my left leg over my right thigh is a painfully laughable exercise in futility.
 
Yoga Self-Help Advice
Yoga, a Sanskrit word for "union," means an experience of oneness or union with your inner being (self).
Yoga's poses are called asanas.
If it's clearly a compliment, say "thank you."
Yoga is said to help reduce stress, ease back pain, and limit allergies, headaches, high and low blood pressure, insomnia and depression.
Yoga is said to have four paths: Jnana, the path of wisdom; Bhakti, the path of devotion; Raja, the path of self-control, and Karma, the path of action.
Hatha yoga is the most popular in the West. It involves postures and controlled breathing.  
 
It demonstrates my need for yoga as much as crossing my right leg over my left demonstrates how I have benefited from it.
 
The thing is, until this past Wednesday,I had never knowingly assumed a yoga pose. Now that I have taken one class, I see that I have been doing very basic yoga all my life, and that I need much more.
 
Take the leg-crossing maneuver. When I cross my legs, I default to crossing my right leg over my left. As a result, my right hip has grown used to this and is much more flexible.
 
Because I seldom cross my left leg over my right, my left hip makes up in stiffness what it lacks in flexibility.
 
That is why I experienced extreme discomfort when, early in the class, I was asked to sit with my legs crossed in the classic yoga pose. You know the pose: You sit with the feet resting on the thighs. I couldn't come close.
 
Of course, if I could, I wouldn't need yoga, and knowing that I couldn't, I thought the class might do me good.
 
It taught me things. Painful things. First, yoga is work. I didn't understand how much until I tried to contort myself into "Uttithita Trikonasana," commonly known as the Triangle Pose. It's like a side bend, but the torso twists so it faces forward, and the down hand tries to touch the floor outside the foot. While doing it, you try to avoid collapsing into a heap of bones.
 
Try. Failure in new fitness activities is a humbling thing, and that too is good. It takes us out of our comfort zone, and yoga did that in more ways than one.
 
Sore muscles? You bet. Try to stand on one leg, bend your opposite leg, grab your foot with the hand on that side, extend that leg forward and sideways, and not fall over.
 
From first and limited experience, it's obvious that yoga asanas (poses) create something of a dynamic tension. When we force the body to extreme postures, we extend and exert the muscles. We stretch. We strengthen.
 
This morning, I awoke to a body punctuated by new and distinct pains. Far from being debilitating, they served as gentle reminders of what I had done to get them.
 
There was no pain involved in my now favorite yoga pose. After 90 minutes of Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), Virabhadrasana (Warrior), Sethu Bandhasa (The Bridge), Janu Shirshasana (Head to Knee) and Uttanasana (Forward Bend or Extension), I was grateful to discover that I already knew how to lie back, hands at my side, eyes closed, and remain very still.
In Sanskrit, it's called Savasana. In English, it's called The Corpse.

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