For many decades now yoga has been a popular means of exercise, relaxation and promoter of good health to Americans. Originating in the far east, of course, means to many of those dwelling in the western hemisphere that it is inherently bad. Some people have the attitude that, if it’s Oriental it is demonic, and anyone participating in it is hellbound. With that mindset, those of us who eat Chinese food are surely enjoying the current heat wave because we’ll be burning for eternity.
The truth is that yoga is a way of exercising that is healthy, involving stretching, various postures that permit the practicer to breath better, move more easily, and (here’s that far-east stuff again!) enables the better flow of chi, or life energy, through the body. Those who are familiar with any type of Eastern healing recognize that this chi (or variously qi, or prana, depending on the particular modality) is necessary to bring healing and vitality to all parts of the body as well as to the mind and spirit. In such alternative medicine systems, there is no separation between these–all parts have to function together or there will be imbalances that cause illness.
In yoga, despite the common attitude that you need to be capable of turning yourself into a human pretzel, there are levels that the elderly or those really out-of-shape can even accomplish. Just as in calisthenics and other exercises, stretching the muscles and getting your breathing under control are an important part of the practice. There are a number of positions that most people, no matter what their condition, would be able to achieve. To participate in yoga does not, therefore, require that one be a circus contortionist. There are several styles of yoga, and each has different purposes and postures. For those wishing something easy to start, there’s Hatha (very basic), Ananda (very easy), both of which focus more on positions, bodily alignment, and controlled breathing. For those who are able to tackle more mentally-challenging exercise, there is Kundalini, which involves more meditation and use of internal energy. Additionally, several other branches of yoga have been developed over the past few years, both in India and here in the US, by masters of the field, for the purpose of promoting more physically-demanding workouts in most cases (see www.matsmatsmats.com/yoga/yoga-disciplines.html).
Aside from the exercise and relaxation derived from this ancient art, yoga is used by many people for healing physical conditions. Asthma, back pain, heart disease, diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, weight loss, even multiple sclerosis, are among the ailments that are being treated by yoga. A study by UCLA was done that examined the effects of yoga on seniors with spinal curvatures (published in an issue of the American Journal of Public Health) proving that these exercises were beneficial in their treatment. Other various studies, world-wide, show the possibilities of improving health in numerous ways by use of yoga. (See living.health.com/2008/02/28/yogas-healing-power/)
Now, for our area, there is a group called “People’s Yoga Detroit” (peoplesyogadetroit.org/) sponsored by Spirit of Hope Church, at 1519 Martin Luther King in the city. To directly quote their website, they are “dedicated to the health, joy and liberation of all beings, with special emphasis and attention being placed on the importance of practicing in Detroit“. Participants are encouraged to bring their own mats. Sessions are Monday and Wednesday mornings from 7 – 8 AM, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 – 7:45 PM. All ages, all levels of skill or none at all, are invited. For more information call: 313-316-1411.