Yoga Rockford: Starting again with yoga

By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio

A new year is upon us, and once again, we are faced with the resolutions and the excitement of the blank slate that lies ahead. For some reason, we feel that this time, this once-a-year time, is the only time (or maybe just the best time) to “start again.” However, it is actually in every moment and in every breath that we have the opportunity to start anew, to make a different decision, to react differently, to learn, to be aware, to change.

Yoga and many forms of meditation teach us to be “present” in each moment. And though that sounds nice, how do we actually achieve this? How do we create a situation where our awareness in each moment allows for the space and the “time” we need to act differently, to change our behavior, and maybe ultimately even change our mind? How can we look at each moment as a blank slate where anything is possible?

With yoga, we start at the most obvious and knowable level, the body. Any form of Hatha Yoga (Iyengar, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Anusara, etc…) uses the body as the first means of increasing awareness of movement and reaction in given and fixed situations (asanas). The asanas (poses) teach the mind to stay present, no matter what may be going on around us. We use Trikonasana (triangle pose) or Bhujangasana (cobra pose) to better align the pieces of the body into a more unified whole.

In stretching within the pose or struggling with limited strength, we experience physical difficulty or, perhaps, other obstacles. But ultimately, the work of yoga removes those obstacles, and unifies body, mind and breath.

Aligning body, mind and breath brings awareness to each movement in each moment. The mind draws away from outside distraction and becomes more present on the inside. “Advancement” in yoga is not moving toward more complicated positions, but developing the ability to be still in the simple positions over longer periods of time. (The more complex poses merely present more obstacles for us to encounter and overcome.) Historically, all asanas — no matter how complex — have one goal: to enable us to sit longer and more comfortably in meditation.

Yoga is often referred to as “mediation in action,” since it involves developing awareness and being present while still in motion. It offers the opportunity to experience our self within numerous small and controlled situations that then transfer, off the mat, to larger, more uncontrolled situations. This may not get us to the root of the mind, like sitting in meditation would. With yoga, there is still a connection to the outer body. However, yoga does prepare us to face our everyday lives with more confidence and presence of mind.

Once the outer and the inner body become firmly connected, and the mind becomes present with every breath, then the new opportunity that each moment holds becomes much more apparent. The same promise and potential we feel facing every new year becomes our reality within every breath. So, start again with the new year, but continue starting again with yoga.

For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit or call (815) 968-9642.

From the Dec. 28, 2011-Jan. 3, 2012, issue

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