By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
B.K.S, Iyengar is quoted as saying that “for a yogi, the body is the laboratory for perpetual experiment and research,” and I would have to agree. I am a scientist, a biologist and anthropologist by schooling. And for me, yoga has turned out to be a path of endless fascination, depth and amazement, giving me the ability to observe experiments within my own being on so many levels.
When treated like any other physical exercise, we fail to see the depth that yoga has to offer. And when the major “goals” of the practice begin to outweigh the small miracles it creates, we lose sight of the full effects yoga can bring to life.
I began yoga as a lark with some girlfriends after years and years of doing many other forms of exercise, punishing my body in numerous ways to stay “healthy” and battle lifelong weight issues. I was stiff from never stretching, had bad knees, bad ankles, and ultimately just got bored or injured by most other physical work. Then, yoga challenged my stiff body to move in new ways and encouraged my agitated mind to find focus and quiet. It was horrible at first, and I had no interest in standing on my head or bending into strange and unusual shapes. So why did I stay?
I thank my inquisitive, scientific mind for keeping me with the practice. Slowly and subtly, I began to feel changes taking place, like none I had ever experienced before. The awareness and knowledge of my body went from the bulk outer muscles to the internal subtle movements. My mind began to turn from an agitated state to a more focused one. Beyond common explanation, I felt healthier and stronger than I ever had with conventional exercise. I began to realize that the practice of yoga is one grand experiment to live by, moment to moment, experiencing real change and improvement with each and every breath.
Iyengar Yoga specifically is the perfect outlet for the experiment of yoga. It is a true representation of the definition of Hatha Yoga, the uniting of the physical self to the spiritual self through determined effort to know your own body and mind. Through detailed focus on alignment in the poses, you are able to slowly and methodically come to an understanding of every level of your being, from the surface to the core. You are challenged to stillness to “see” and experience what is really happening. And, with the use of props, you are able to focus the mind away from distractions that occur knowingly or unknowingly within a non-aligned or quickly performed pose.
All yoga poses, when done well, are designed to activate and regulate every system of the body, and through that balance, create a vessel that is fit and able to channel energy better and more efficiently. As in any scientific experiment that must show tangible results or be thrown out, the experiment of yoga brings clear and practical benefits to each individual. Thorough knowledge of every aspect of the self brings palpable change in every aspect of living: physically, mentally and spiritually.
You can always find and read the lists of benefits and by-products of yoga, but truly there are no perfect words to describe the real changes that practice brings. I can share the results of my own experiment with knowledge that every practitioner will have differing results; we each start yoga for different reasons, and stay in yoga for even differing ones. You just have to make the choice to take charge of your own laboratory, to explore the mysteries that lie within your individual test-tube, and no matter what, ultimately enjoy the fascinating results.
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the March 31-April 6, 2010 issue