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Yoga is Health Giving

by Ruth White(more info)

listed in yoga, originally published in issue 102 - August 2004

Despite origins that date back to India more than 5,000 years ago, Yoga is just as relevant today in the frenetic pace of the 21st century.

An excellent form of stress release, yoga helps slow down an overactive mind while at the same time toning up the body, removing toxins, relieving pains, backache and injuries. However, perhaps most important of all, yoga allows us space to be still.

Stopping for Stillness

In the twenty years I have been teaching yoga, most of my classes have been full – full of men and women who need to STOP. It sounds contradictory to come to a yoga class exhausted, but we are, are we not, engaged in the constant struggle of living life, of trying to fulfil the ever-flowing torrent of desires? No sooner is one task accomplished then another springs to mind. With all this dashing about we are in danger of missing the point. There is, in fact, a natural stillness. It can be quite small and at first not easily recognizable. It is the natural break or pause between the cessation of one desire and before the beginning of the next.

We can all experience this quiet moment; it is there underneath it all. The problem is when the mind is engaged in a flurry of activity, inner silence is often completely obliterated. It is not just activity and agitation that hide and veil these precious resting moments; a soporific state can have the same effect.

With practice, we can become aware of these still moments. There's no set measure. It could be a split second or a few minutes. It is a quiescent time when energy can be restored and we feel refreshed. It could be described as a feeling of 'being at home'.

To reconnect and become fully engaged with present time, try introducing a 'gap' between actions. Initially it may feel a little unnatural, but as this still moment is a natural occurrence, we will, in a comparatively short space of time, begin to recognize and enjoy it. This phenomenon can be seen in children. A moment when the body is quite still, the eyes and mind are still. It is a precious moment.

Compare this state of being to the more usual stance of narrow eyes, hard face and body and mind out of sync and it's easy to perceive the price we pay when the mind is in tumult.

Right Here, Right Now

Yoga is a strong counter-balance to this state of being in the past or the future, rather than in the present moment. Our frenetic relationship with time has a detrimental effect on our bodies. If we think of tension in the muscles, this tension is brought about by holding onto the past; being attached to the last action rather than releasing it. We also become agitated with worry, when the mind races ahead to imagined future events causing muscles to tense in anticipation.

In either of these two states, we are not in the present. In the present moment, the body would be more economical – only using muscles necessary for the action in hand and releasing past or future. It is by working in a disciplined and precise way in Hatha Yoga that we can bring our bodies into the present. Hatha means physical discipline; by giving full attention to the asana or posture and nothing else, we can experience a release of energy, a relief from worries. It is when we come into a natural state (a childlike state) that nothing exists but here and now. We have found that, when practising yoga we feel full of energy and, at the same time, quite calm and strong. The 10 minutes or more of Savasana (corpse posture) at the end of a class or practice comes quite naturally and it is easy to let go completely.

The Healing Power of Yoga

We can all waste a tremendous amount of energy when the mind is flitting around from past to future. In this all too common state, we experience fatigue. Agitation in mind can create an inability to concentrate. When the mind is agitated, jumping from thought to thought, it can be difficult to rest. Even though there is a great need to stop, we are disinclined to do so. It is at these times we can feel the healing power of yoga.

Exercise some willpower, get out your mat and stand on it. This first physical action will move the body out of the state of inertia. Have you noticed how in times of stress and tension, the body can be rendered inactive – dead? If the resistance is high and the body not willing, then use a tape to practise to – just obeying a voice. At these times, this can be an easy way out. After only one or two asanas, the relaxation and joy of the present moment come back. For me, yoga never fails, the magic is always there.

For people 'fossilized' or 'stuck in a routine' and those who cannot get off the roundabout, but would like to, may I suggest that they come on a Yoga retreat. There is nothing like sharing the energy of a group, and being free for a couple of days. It allows the light to come in and you will find many fixed ideas you hold about yourself can change or dissolve.

As you work in yoga, your body, energy levels and even your attitude will change, although at first this change may not be as obvious to you as it is to your family and friends.

Further Information

Ruth hosts regular yoga holidays held in quiet country houses throughout the UK and also in Greece. All abilities welcome. For further enquiries Tel: 020 8641 7770;


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About Ruth White

Ruth White is an established yoga teacher, who was taught by BKS Iyengar. She has two centres for Yoga, one at Fetcham, Leatherhead and the other at Cheem, Surrey. She has produced an entire range of Yoga Videos and DVDs useful for everybody's needs or abilities. Ruth conducts Teacher Training Certificated Courses and Workshops throughout the UK. She can be reached on Tel: 020-8641 7770;;

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