Flex Time

Flex TimeYoga Calms Through the Ups and Downs of Life 

By Christy Kearney 

With benefits for your body, mind and spirit, yoga just may be multi-tasking at its best.

While yoga is rooted in Indian Hinduism, the practice has gained tremendous popularity in the United States, where it tends to focus on the physical rather than the traditional religious observations. Nevertheless, misconceptions about the practice still exist.

“People are very intimidated and think that they are going against their belief system by practicing yoga,” said Kristy Bassham, yoga instructor and owner of Barefoot Yoga Studio in Niceville. “They’re not. Yoga is not a religion. It doesn’t go against anyone’s belief system. In my personal opinion, it can only enhance your belief system.”

The other fear factor tends to be just that – fear of the unknown. Bassham encourages people to simply come in and experience it.

“People say, ‘I’m not flexible;  I can’t do yoga,’” she said. “That’s like saying you need to know how to play tennis to take tennis lessons. You’re taking yoga to become flexible. You have to suspend judgment of yourself.

“It’s not your ‘no pain, no gain’ thing,” Bassham said. “People are so used to that, and they think they kind of have to fit into that mold.”

Yoga is designed so that the practitioner takes personal responsibility. As you practice, you learn where your limitations are and how to challenge yourself without pushing yourself too hard.

“It’s a dropping in and a tuning into your body, your breath and your mind,” Bassham said. “It can also move over into other areas of your life.” She uses the example of working on a difficult pose. You likely will have both a physical and emotional reaction to being in a challenging physical position.

“It can transcend many different layers,” Bassham said.

And this is where the multi-tasking kicks in; the body and mind work in harmony to achieve physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual results.

 “It has been proven that the very first time you do yoga, your stress hormone lowers,” Bassham said.

Practicing yoga combats stress, the culprit responsible for numerous physical and emotional inflictions ranging from digestive issues and weak immune systems to restless nights and struggles with depression.

In addition to helping practitioners managing stress levels, yoga cultivates physical wellness by improving flexibility, breathing, strength, stability, posture and stamina. The practice also can reduce blood pressure and lower heart rates.

Even with a focus on the physical, yoga often becomes simply a way of being.

“You kind of start taking pieces of it back into your life with you,” Bassham said. “You’ve got the training in the breath. You’ve got the training in lowering the blood pressure. You start to notice your posture. You start to notice when your muscles are locking up. You become a lot more aware of your body. You become aware of the way that you react to emotional stresses, to physical stresses. It just kind of permeates everything.”

Yogic principles help practitioners face the challenges of everyday life, both large and small, in a more relaxed fashion. Awareness as well as acceptance of yourself and those around you leads the charge in creating a sense of groundedness.

“You are able to breathe through situations as they come up in your life and able to handle those things with a calmer, serene center because of the practice,” Bassham said. “Because you’ve experienced it and touched it, you know how to get yourself there.

“Whether you want it to or not,” she said, “yoga excavates the authentic self,” the whole self – body, mind and spirit.