Interest in yoga wasn’t always so commonplace in American culture. My father tells me that he first bought yoga books in the nineteen fifties, and at that time the subject was still considered to be a little esoteric. Those early books are still on the shelf at his house, so I called him to see when they were written. All of them have a copyright date of 1904, and all were authored by a master of the practice named Yogi Ramacharaka. My father also said that the book most likely to have started the popularization of yoga in this country was by the author Jess Stern, and was titled, Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation. The book is about the lessons Stern had with the yoga teacher, Marcia Moore. I suppose that the book could just as well have been titled, Yoga, Youth, and Reintegration. After all, I take it that one of the goals of yoga is to integrate body, mind, and spirit.
I recall as a child seeing my father standing on his head, and also recall my mother practicing some yoga postures on the living room rug. I distinctly remember rolling around on the floor as I tried to imitate some of mother’s postures, and remember mother telling me that the exercises were based on the positions animals assumed during periods of rest and restoration. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. Ever watch the complete relaxation of a house cat when it’s stretching out on the rug, a perfect example of a completely natural and integrated physicality.
Meditation was another discipline I encountered during childhood, this occurring before my teenage years, when our family was temporarily living in Iowa City, Iowa. You see, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who became famous for teaching the Beetles) had his headquarters and his own university in Iowa, and many people were signing up for his Transcendental Meditation Program. My father and mother enrolled together in a brief training session during which they were given instructions on how to meditate, and were each given a personal, secret mantra. The mantra, I understand, was to be continuously repeated during daily, twenty minute periods of meditation. Both parents claimed that the daily meditation sessions introduced greater tranquility into their lives. I also remember father trying to get mother to reveal her personal mantra, but she refused.
Meditation and the practice of yoga both seem beneficial for expectant mothers and for those women who are trying to conceive. Breathing is an important part of the practice of both disciplines, and, I hear, has to do with the regulation of the body’s vital force, known as prana in Hindu scriptures. I imagine that most of you reading this know quite well how helpful breathing techniques can be during the birthing process. Yoga and mediation have much to say on the subject of beneficial breathing, and both practices tend to introduce a calming influence in all aspects of life, to reduce stress in the face of challenging or disruptive circumstances, and promote tranquility and harmony.
When Brenda invited me to practice a few introductory yoga postures, I was a bit apprehensive, in spite of the fact that I already knew her to be a warm and tolerant human being. I had once taken an introductory yoga class that was ostensibly for beginners, but, as things unfolded, many of the students already knew a number of advanced moves. Further, they made no attempt to hide their amusement at the awkward attempts of the few beginners who were trying to master some of the postures.
I need not have worried about the session with Brenda. She is a kind person and was very patient with me. Her only interest was in revealing to me the benefit of the simple postures I attempted. With her guidance in helping me to achieve these basic positions I was able to relax and feel the release from pressure and tension that she had promised before we began the routine. While these basic yoga postures would help anyone to reduce stress create harmony in daily life, remove energy blockages, and achieve unity in body and mind, these exercises are especially beneficial for women who have already conceived, who want to conceive, or simply yearn for peace and tranquility. Another benefit is that, besides reducing stress, the postures have also been shown to establish regularity of the menstrual cycle.
So—have a look at the video of my introductory session with Brenda. You will find that you can readily imitate at home the simple postures she taught me.
Amy Roland Archive
Amy's Blog, Part One
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