One aspect of my "former" life in the U.S. is that I had a weekly regime of exercise. With no gyms here, no easy paths to walk or run and no organized exercise programs, I missed this aspect of my life of weekly attendance at a gym to exercise and keep fit.
Finally, a German woman, Anke, who lives on the island 6 months out of the year and who has been practicing Yoga for over 5 years recently went to Thailand to complete an intensive course in Ashtanga Yoga. She completed a 200 hour Yoga Alliance approved teacher training program with Paul Dallaghan at Yoga Thailand (www.yoga-thailand.com). After completing her course in Thailand she is now qualified to teach Yoga. While she practices Ashtanga Yoga she has planned the class around lessons which are a modified version of Ashtanga, more of a Hatha Flow Yoga which focus on the connection of breath and movement.
Yoga, to me, is almost an art form as the movements of Yoga are slow and smooth, flowing from within in a graceful manner. It is quite lovely to watch someone do their daily Yoga routine and although there are a lot of things I know that, at my age, I will never master, overall I am sure that I will improve my overall health and flexibility by practicing the movements.
Yoga is a system of active striving, mental discipline, and dutiful action. Yoga also introduces the conception of God but this conception is not necessarily a predominant feature in our yoga exercises. The term “Yoga” has many meanings and is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” meaning “to control,” “to yoke” or “to unite”. Translations including “joining, uniting, union, conjunction and/or means.” It is also possible that the word Yoga derives from “yujir” Samadhi”, which means “contemplation” or “absorption.”
I have read some about Yoga and the practice which had its beginnings in India and is closely tied to Buddhism. There are many types of Yoga and many levels. What I was mainly concerned with was methods employed by those teaching Yoga in order to achieve relaxation, flexibility, strength and calmness. I wanted to concentrate on these areas for my physical body and to reach a degree of relaxation and calmness in my mind. I am not into humming or meditating. My mind is constantly active and to still it and concentrate on one thing in order to relax and calm my inner core will be a challenge.
Anyone that knows me knows I am not one who sits still for very long and am constantly jumping from one project to another, keeping busy throughout the day. I must confess that I will be doing two or three things at a time all the while thinking of something else to move on to. I had a good deal of stress in my job while living in the States before I came to Guanaja and even with the laid back attitude towards life here, I still have a modem of stress, mainly brought on by my own infliction of constant scheduling.
But, back to Yoga. Anke started with a small class of 6-7 people. We meet 3 times a week at her lovely hilltop home. I must say I did not expect to be able to relax as quickly as I did, but I have found that being in a situation where it is the core of the practice, I was able to relax after a few lessons, which was indeed an accomplishment for me.
The Islanders are curious about Yoga and Anke is in touch with some who are, as a matter of fact, quite interested in doing yoga. Hopefully, according to Anke, there may be an effort to put a group together to teach on the Cay. Other islanders, from reports I have heard, are hesitant as they have heard that Yoga is a religious practice and, according to some, it is circumspect as to whether or not they should be taking part in any such practice. While some Christians around the world attempt to integrate yoga and other aspects of Eastern Spirituality with Christian prayer, other organizations have expressed concerns and disapproval with respect to any practices that include yoga and meditation.
I personally do not feel that the practice of yoga and meditation have any adverse results in a person's way of thinking about their religious beliefs. Several years ago, the Vatican warned that concentration on the physical aspects of meditation “can degenerate into a cult of the body” and that equating bodily states with mysticism “could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations.” On one hand I can see where people dedicated to the exercise inspired by Yoga might begin to concentrate more and more on their body and, quite possibly, be distracted by it to the detriment of giving less attention to their religion…..but I really seriously doubt it. In my mind, if one pays attention to one’s body, takes care of it properly, is able to relax and clear their mind, then would it not follow that in this newer, relaxed state they would be happier and embrace all they feel is good as opposed to pursuing “immoral” practices? It is just as well that I’m not consulted when people take opposition to Yoga as I only see the benefits to it and that it just one more way to find peace within ones self. It is not, as I see it, a way to degrade a person's core beliefs and/or morals.
Of course, that being said, why one decides to practice Yoga is a personal decision. For me it is simply a way to accomplish a goal of mine - to live a healthier, stronger more peaceful life.
It will take me quite a while to accomplish the positions of Yoga but I am willing to learn and know that the benefits outweigh the challenge of achieving the various positions. I don't think I'll ever be able (at my age) to do the pose pictured above, but in class, thankfully, we are taught a "modified version" which is something within my realm!
The classes have been refreshing, relaxing and beneficial so far. I returned from the States just last month and caught a cold. With the exercise I was able to relieve my suffering quicker. My cold was gone in just a couple of days as opposed to one or two weeks. I truly believe that the deep breathing, the relaxing and the stretching to increase my body’s circulation cleaned out impurities and helped me.
I look forward to the classes and am happy that Guanaja has found another wonderful aspect of life available to the people that live here! My thanks to our teacher, Anke and what she is helping to attain.