esther m palmer

introducing yoga as a movement practice

preface to a movement

Next week begins a new beginner's yoga series that I'm teaching in town, which of course raises the issue for me of how best to introduce yoga --as a "thing" and as a practice and as what I intend to teach folks. Yoga in our world today is not just one thing (is anything?) and the word will carry different meanings to different people, so I want to share with my class what meanings I'm bringing with me so that they can understand my perspective and choose when to share in them and when to let them be. It may be helpful to know that I'm in no way a scholar of yoga or Indic philosophy, and my knowledge is grounded in a Western perspective through the trainings and teaching I've done in the United States.

what is yoga?

I like to introduce yoga as a practice --in particular, a movement practice. And this movement practice that we'll be exploring in the beginner's series as well as in my online classes is connected with a worldview (darshan, which might also be translated as "a philosophy") that uses observations and practices of the human mind and body to understand or know self in relation to whole (or universe).

The norms and practices of this approach to self-realization have evolved over time and the system of yoga invites and allows for this. The movement component grew up out of a period when the body was denied as relevant --or suspected to be getting in the way of self-realization. That didn't work out so well! Today, we have more and more evidence that we treat the mind and body separately at great cost to our well-being and self awareness. And so, movement practices have in one way or another become part of the exploration of self (and being).

I teach movement in this form we refer to as yoga (i.e., a stylized system of movement practices) as a means to both increase self awareness and regulate or contribute to well-being. For me, that means using the practice to build or hone our ability to notice our individual needs and preferences and the autonomy to make choices within the system. One of the ways I like to enter this process is through anatomy with insights into how breathing and muscles and joints work, using the forms and movements of yoga as examples.

This is just my take on yoga --and just a tiny introduction to it at that. I hope it's useful to you and that you will find your own take on yoga over time!

Be moving, be true, be you,

photo credit parco chan, found on unsplash

Thoughts or questions? I'd love to hear them.

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