Author: Bret Gornik
Yoga is a time to connect with myself. Yoga is a time to relax, lose my mind in breath, and let everything go. Yoga is a time to think, reflect, and rebuild. Yoga is how I ‘Live Better’.
The Studio - I find my place, set down my mat, and sink into child’s pose. Child’s pose is the resting pose where a yogi can focus deeply on breath and regain a conscious mindset. At this point, I scan my body. Are my hips tight from dead lifting? Are my knees sore from running? Is my lower back tight from sitting? Are there any areas that feel really open? I use this scan to focus on different areas of my body throughout the practice. It’s crucial for me to do this before the practice to feel prepared.
Breathe - Breathing deeply in ujjayi breath, or “ocean breathing”, is a form of breathing when an individual breathes deeply in and out of their nose. This way of breathing makes me think more in depth about how important that single action, breathing, is to relaxation and life. I start using this technique right when I sink into my first pose.
Intention - The teacher enters the studio and advises the class to set an intention for the practice. This to me, defines the practice. Am I going to focus on a person, place, thing, or feeling? I always take a few deep breaths to decide on this intention. I believe the intention should relate to the feelings right then and there. This way I can dedicate the rest of the movement to that exact purpose. If the practice gets tough, or I lose my sense of breath, I can come back to the single purpose, regain my momentum, and finish the session strong. When setting an intention, my goal is to make sure its purpose affords me the gratitude I was searching for when I came to my mat that day.
Movement - My breathing is set - it’s time to flow. Class transitions from stillness to movement. My first Sun Salutation links my mental focus to my physical practice. A forward fold to release tension, a halfway lift to create space in my body, mountain pose to help me stand tall through my first Chaturanga, which builds strength in my practice. I find flow in my upward dog and finally find openness in my shoulders and legs in my downward dog. Linking an inhale or an exhale to each movement keeps the mind and body in sync. The body begins to create heat through movement and the sweat starts to pour. Sweating is a way to detoxify and release any negative energy. Once the flow begins, the mind can focus entirely on breathing. The initial flow wills me with vigor to create space within my body.
Progressing Onwards - We move on from a simple flow to adding a variety of warrior poses, triangle series, backbends, and chair poses. During these challenging sequences, my number one priority is to remain focused on my breath. When the instructor cues to inhale and exhale, I try my best to stay on point with their prompts. Personally, my hips are my tight spots. When folding in a half pigeon pose or fire log, I need to make sure to focus on breathing so I fall deeply in the posture and do not create more tension. This is where getting back to the intention I set earlier in practice helps me through a tough sequence of poses.
Holding a balance pose is the time to utilize inner strength to be still. Finding stillness within the body is one of the true benefits of yoga. This section of the flow helps me really appreciate my body and the ability I have to be on my mat.
Deep Breath In & Deep Breath Out – We are now in savasana pose, lying on our backs. The sweat is flowing and the room is warm. The melody of breath from all the yogis brings certain calmness to the room. My belly rises and falls with each inhale and exhale. I get back to my intention and let my mind wander. After falling in and out of a zen-like sleep state, I start bringing movement back to the hands and feet. I slowly roll over into fetal pose. Savasana marks the end and fetal pose marks the new beginning. This is my time to reflect on the practice. I use the final poses to really let everything go and open my day to a new start.
Namaste – A respectful closing
This is the last word spoken in most yoga practices. It is meant to end a session filled with breathing, movement, flow, strength, power, and stillness.
We have moved to the final seated position and seal the room with one final communal breath. We send gratitude to the teacher and the rest of the class. Once class has ended, I take time to calm my mind and prepare to move on with my day. My mind is in a space of serenity.
Refresh – Upon leaving the space, I feel a sense of refreshment. I drink a nice glass of water, shower, towel off, and go on with my day. There is a feeling of accomplishment, openness, and peace.
I believe that yoga brings a sense of harmony to the mind and body. When life gets moving at a mile a minute, yoga gives me the opportunity to break from technology, breathe, free my head, sweat, build strength and flexibility, and get back to myself. It is the one time in the day that I feel truly disconnected from the world - and it feels awesome. I encourage you to try a class and find an instructor you like. You can do this with a friend or by venturing off by yourself. Remember, there is never any judgment in the yoga studio, and trying yoga for the first time can be a gateway to peace.
Have the best practice ever!