By Audrey Walzer, CYC Yoga Teacher; Owner & Director
“Yoga? Oh no, I’m not flexible.” If I’d only heard it once… but a thousand times later I am frustrated that people’s perception of yoga is still based on media images of yoga practice as a bunch of pretzel-like poses done by super bendy women in provocative outfits. This imagery sells products from mattresses to designer water, and yet it keeps the very people who would benefit most from yoga, away from it.
As a yoga and movement teacher for over thirty years, please, please believe me when I say: You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga! In fact, if your muscles are tight due to lots of athletics, sitting at a computer all day, driving, past or current injuries, or simply being a couch potato… yoga can keep you from an almost inevitable visit to the orthopedist’s office one day!
Our bodies were designed to move. As children, we naturally explore the full range of movement nature has given us. Today, even children move less, and teenagers are experiencing back pain in record numbers. As we age, due to lifestyle, time and family constraints, our movements become habituated, lacking variation, and our bodies become imbalanced… often tight in hamstrings, hips and lower back, chest muscles and shoulders. These imbalances, if left unattended, inevitably lead to pain- in the back, in the knees, in the neck, and this can cause us to move less, creating a vicious cycle. Make no mistake, everyone needs to stretch! Just look at an animal waking from sleep- it’s a natural instinct we have forgotten. But once you begin, it feels so good! The secret is this: you need to move your body in a way that serves you, and not try to imitate a bendy-Barbie teacher.
At Camarillo Yoga Center, we are celebrating our 13th year teaching “regular people” of all ages, sizes, shapes and levels of fitness, to rebalance their bodies. With safe yoga practices that bear no resemblance to pretzels, and attention to individual differences, we ease the muscles of the back, hips and legs to alleviate lower back pain, and relieve shoulder and neck tension. We gently stretch tight muscles and strengthen those that are weak and ignored, most often the core muscles that support the lower back. Our goal at Camarillo Yoga is not to tie you into a knot, but instead to untie the knots that you know are there, and the ones you may not even realize are causing you pain or discomfort.
“I tried to stretch; it hurts!” I believe it. A machine that has rusted, no matter how old or new, creaks and groans, but a little oil helps lubricate the parts so they move smoothly. In yoga, as opposed to old-fashioned “reach and bounce” stretching, we use a very special oil can to help your body glide more freely: The Breath. Western medical science confirms that yoga breathing stimulates the vagus nerve to create a “relaxation response” so the “fight or flight” tensing mechanism is disengaged, and the whole body is able to move in a more relaxed, integrated way. Yoga breathing helps us focus, concentrate and let go of the brain chatter that occupies us 90% of the time, so we feel our bodies in ways that keep us safe, and ultimately result in greater range of motion, balance and freedom.
“I don’t have time to go to a yoga class!” Time is the key. How many minutes do you spend at a computer, tightening your neck and shoulders? Our bodies are efficient accountants, and they want to please us. If we spend most of our time holding our bones in positions that shorten our muscles, our accountants will tell the muscle crew to just firm up and hold the bones there permanently. When we finally take that much needed vacation, and tear out our shoulder taking a suitcase from the overhead bin, our accountant is confused. This overhead bone position wasn’t in the plan- the muscles have formed themselves for typing. Ouch! We need to balance the ledger, it’s as simple as that, and denial is a huge factor in the ultimate deterioration of our physical health. So many people come to me for help once back pain is so great they are trying to avoid surgery, or when all the surgeries haven’t helped them feel better… if only they had put in the minutes to rebalance their bodies before pain became the motivator.
My heartfelt suggestion? Put in the minutes toward your own health and freedom now. Open your mind and find out how yoga can significantly change your body balance sheet!
Audrey Walzer Yoga Teacher; Owner/Director — Audrey Walzer was voted “Ventura County’s Best” Yoga Teacher in 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014 in the Ventura County Reporter Reader’s Poll. She is the owner and director of Camarillo Yoga Center, (Voted “Best Yoga Studio 2012, 2013 & 2014) and director of the Yoga@Work program. Her DVD “Easy Yoga Stretches for Home, Office & Travel” can be found online at www.easyogastretches.net.