By Kelley Carboni-Woods
Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years and is practiced in every part of the world, but as a teacher, I often hear a range of reasons why people of color have not taken or will never take a yoga class. Some people may feel they have physical limitations or just don’t feel drawn to take a class, but more often than not, people are resistant because they lack understanding of what yoga really is, some even thinking it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Practicing yoga is an excellent way to cultivate your senses, strengthen your body or deepen your understanding and caring for yourself and others. Despite the misunderstandings based on Internet images of people with their bodies contorted and balancing on the tops of their heads, yoga is much more. I became a teacher to make yoga accessible and less intimidating to people in our community. The poses are beneficial to building strength and increasing flexibility, but a regular yoga practice can mean much more.
Here are some tips to ease you into practicing yoga.
Learn to breathe. Any person with the ability to breathe can practice yoga. There are eight (limbs) of yoga; one of them is pranayama, the control of prana (or life force) through the breath. Yoga can help you develop the ability to deepen your breath and control and regulate your breath on and off the mat. Better control of breathing can regulate issues such as lack of focus, sleeplessness and high blood pressure, as well as increase endurance for other physical activities.
Deepen your connection to your beliefs. Yoga means union of mind and body and the practice is about finding harmony with your thoughts, deeds and actions. Yoga and meditation offer tools to help quiet the mind, giving you the clarity to study, learn or pray more effectively. The yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances) are two more limbs of yoga that highlight ethical ways of living that can be found in any belief system. They each focus on ways to be peaceful, honest, compassionate, grateful and loving. Increased understanding of how to apply right living and having time to focus on it are what yoga is all about.
Build a strong community. “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” which means “may all things be happy and free and may my life be complement to that freedom and happiness for all,” is a frequently chanted phrase in countless songs, meditations and readings. Practicing yoga regularly helps you connect with your mind and body, bringing deeper understanding to your past, clarity to the present and hope for the future. It also brings into focus how to connect with and be useful to the world around you. While the practice will teach you lessons about yourself, it will also highlight ways to make the world around you better with your thoughts, actions and deeds.
When people state the reasons why they haven’t tried yoga or why they did try it and didn’t enjoy it, I understand. It may all seem overwhelming at first, but don’t be afraid to give it a try. Yoga has taught me to be a better person and make the world around me a better place, and who doesn’t want that?
Kelley Carboni-Woods is a registered yoga teacher, blogger and salon owner. For more information about her classes and private sessions please visit www.iaminfectiouslyhappy.com or call 704 807-2613.