As I mentioned in earlier days, the primary purpose of Holy Yoga is not the yoga. It is connecting with Christ. However, the postures (or asanas as they are known in the yoga world) combined with our breath help provide the vehicle for this.
We want to strengthen our bodies so that we are able to do the tasks God has for us, and if we are going to bother to do them, we might as well learn to do them correctly.
In a typical yoga class, your teacher will try to include a variety of types of poses. Books aplenty and google can give you the in’s and out’s of specific postures, so this is just a short overview. One of my favorite things about yoga is the progression of poses. There are easier versions of the asanas and poses to work toward as you continue to build strength. Gives me hope!
Many classes will begin with students in easy seat, otherwise known scientifically as criss-cross applesauce. This is a great place to begin to settle in and begin to lengthen the breath. In Holy Yoga, scripture and prayer are often offered at this time and the intention for the class will be set. After a few classes, you may find yourself immediately start to feel more peaceful and ready to pray when you come to a seated posture.
Learning how to move through the standing postures is a HUGE part of yoga. We need a good foundation to move from so that we can begin to enjoy more advanced poses. I love the idea that as a Christian, I need a firm foundation first and then I can move forward to accomplish the tasks God sets before me. The standing postures can be a physical metaphor for the Christian life.
How about that?
You may have heard of Mountain Pose (which may look like just standing there, but is sooo much more, Warrior One and Two, and many others. As strength is built in standing postures, many yogis begin to see and feel differences in the body.
Tree pose, Side Arm Balance, Dancer, Half-Moon and the list of balancing postures goes on. Mountain pose can be a balance posture if that is where you are.
It is vital that we keep working on our balance to prevent falls as we age. These postures call for great strength in the core.
And they are challenging and fun to work towards.
Anytime you get your feet above your head, you are doing an inverted posture. Some of them are INTENSE like Headstands and some are gentle like Legs up the Wall.
Just the word may take you back to your junior high days -cheerleader days, or you’re-never-going-to-be-a cheerleader days. Erase those uncomfortable memories because we are not talking about those. Or if those were your glory days, stop a minute and do your favorite cheer!
It’s all good!
Yoga Back Bend poses are thought to be stimulating and awakening, so you might not want to do a bunch of them before bedtime. They require strong legs and work the backside of the body. Negative energy and emotions often settle there which can leave us with back problems, etc. Of course, not all back problems are the result of our experiences, but we know our body can act up if we are emotionally upset-even if we aren’t even aware we are.
Cat/Cows, Sphinx, Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, Camel , and Bridge are all back bends appropriate for most people in some variation.
Oh, I love a good twist, don’t you? In Holy Yoga, we say root down to rise up in twists because it is important to lengthen the spine before twisting. Let your breath help you move deeper into the poses as you create space between vertebrate. There are seated twists, standing twists, and reclining twists and they are all yummy!
These poses are calming while at the same time stretching out the back body. They are great reminders of the humility we should have as Christians. I always feel better after breathing deeply and doing some asanas that include forward folds.
All the poses are building towards the most important one of all, resting pose. Most people run around like chickens with their heads cut off much of the time, and the chance to finally rest after working all parts of your body in a Holy Yoga class is like a blessing from above. For some of you, this may be the most DIFFICULT pose of all. If that is you, please don’t run from it, weary soul!
I love to intentionally go through the body from head to toe relaxing each muscle group before settling into 5 minutes of resting the body and mind.
Never be tempted to skip this part of class!
Don’t beat yourself up if it seems you aren’t progressing as rapidly as you would like or as well as the person on the mat next to you. My advice is just keep at it. Come to class and get on your mat at home.