Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Evolution of Yoga

by Annette Dashofy

When I started teaching yoga years ago, the ancient practice was often considered foreign and…well…weird. Some folks thought it was a dairy product sold in small containers with fruit on the bottom. But now every fitness center, spa and YMCA offer classes of varying styles. You can find yoga combined with Pilates (Yogalates). You can find yoga with weights. You can even find Disco Yoga.

My classes have changed very little during this evolution. I’m stuck with the pure thing. Even then, there are many, many styles of purist yoga. Have you taken a class and didn’t like it? Try another class with a different teacher. Odds are your experience will be different as well.

A couple thousand years ago yoga was created for teen-aged Indian boys as a method to rein in all that raging testosterone and prepare those youngsters for long spells sitting in meditation. That explains some of the poses you see in yoga books and magazines. I teach yoga for mostly middle aged Americans, who spend too much time sitting. What a difference two thousand years make.

I’ve noticed that quite a few writers practice yoga. This is understandable. As writers, a job requirement is to plant our bums in our chair and sit for hours with occasional breaks to refill our cups of caffeine. Not a particularly healthy lifestyle.

Yoga offers relief for sore backs and stiff necks. There are even wrist exercises to stave off Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

A couple years ago I was scheduled to teach a Yoga for Writers class early Saturday morning at a writer’s conference. No one showed up. Not one solitary soul. Too much partying and networking Friday night to get up early for yoga. I really wasn’t upset. I had an excuse to not offer that class again, so I can party and network on Friday nights, too.

Writing conferences may not be the best location for a yoga class. But I know of several writers who tote their yoga mats to conferences with them and practice (probably later in the morning) on their own.

There is one more excellent reason to fit a little yoga into your writing day. Stress. Does anyone out there NOT experience stress? If so, please drop me a line. I’m always interested in meeting a one-of-a-kind person. For the rest of us, yoga has evolved into a non-narcotic tranquilizer.

My Afternoon of Restorative Yoga was last Sunday. Only four women showed up. I guess the rest of the population was stressing over the Steelers-Falcons game. (Personally, I think Ben Roethlisberger needs to attend one of my restorative classes.) Those four women came in looking tired and drained by life. Three hours later, all four wandered out of class wearing blissful smiles.

Whether you’re an over-stressed writer sitting for long hours before a computer screen or a teen preparing for a life of meditation, yoga has something for you. Whether it’s restorative or yoga aerobics, find a class and give it a try.

And if you happen to run into Big Ben, give him my number. I’ve got a class just for him.


Nancy said...

Annette, you're exactly what Ben needs! That, and a better helmet, maybe.

Tory said...

I just learned there's a "yoga basics" class offered at work Wednesdays lunch. One sentence in the description gives me pause. "Pencils and handouts will be provided." Hmmm.

Annette said...

Pencils and handouts at a yoga class??? That's a new one on me! If you go, Tory, you'll have to let me know what that's all about.

Cathy said...

Enjoyed reading your overview of yoga through the ages. Unfortunately, I was one of the writers who would have liked to have attended your yoga class at the Pennwriters conference of yore. They needed to schedule it just a little later, like when I was awake and out of bed. Yoga at a conference would be a real life and mood saver. Too much sitting, stress if you have critiques or appointments with the publishing people.

Yoga is wonderful and I'm sure your students think you are, too.

Annette said...

Cathy, the problem with scheduling it later was that it would have been in conflict with the big breakfast meeting.

Maybe I should offer private classes during the conference. I could advertise it as de-stress before your agent appointment. Or mellow out after a rough critique session.

I think I may be on to something here...

Kristine said...

I was amazed at the benefits of yoga when I started doing it a few years ago. One of my fondest memories was when you taught a mini-class during our writer's retreat a few years ago. What a great way to start the day!

Those wrist exercises are awesome, too. Great for writers.

Natraj said...

I live in India and have just started with yoga and the benefits are amazing!! Yoga was almost lost here as well but thanx to Spirtual Guru's like Osho it has gained a lot of lost ground and everybody is trying it now. Wonderfull to know that there are people like you out there who are spreading this great system. Please Keep it up!!