Friday, November 5, 2010

Experience Joy

As a yoga instructor I am constantly searching for inspiration, to share with my students and myself. Although I strive to find the deeper truths within ancient yoga texts and hip yoga media (yes it does exist!), I often find that the most powerful inspiration comes from my connections to other people.

My most recent inspiration came from (of all things!) Halloween. While I usually approach this holiday with I admit a bit of disdain for the candy, the commercialism, the marketing to kids, THE CANDY, I was taken aback by the unexpected joy that I was confronted with. Let me clarify.

My kids were bursting out of their alien and white droid seams with joy. Pure, unadulterated, joy. First to dress up, then to play their respective roles, to see their friends all dressed up, and then of course for the candy. While I’m sure sugar played a role in all of this joy, there is a real ability of kids to take delight in something so simple. It’s powerful. It’s like they have this key to access and express joy when it strikes them.

We as adults are often so much more closed and protected. We hide or fail to recognize experiences that could be joyful simply because we have fears. While this has many personal manifestations in our relationships, physical effects often translate to chest tightness, heartburn, even asthma. Part of yoga is learning to access those places of joy and open up to our own experiences.

So tonight I advised my students to be open to experience their joy. As John Friend, founder of the Anusara Yoga movement states, “Look for the good vs. what is wrong” both in class and off the mat. Throughout the class, I noticed my students that usually push to the extreme soften and internalize their practice, and those who are already gentler with themselves hone in on specific postures that they struggle with.

I think we can all challenge ourselves to be more open to joy. Whether you practice yoga or not, each of us can take the time to appreciate ourselves. Simple acknowledgment and gratitude for everything that makes us, well… (yes even those parts that we may not be completely satisfied with). We can only truly experience joy for others when we have seen the good in ourselves.

While I’m sure I will struggle with being open to my own joy; one thing is for certain, I have certainly seen the good in Halloween.

Kristin Henningsen, M.S., C.H., R.Y.T.


Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness said...

Hi Kristin,

I am a huge fan of yoga :). I've been practicing Iyengar yoga on and off for about 10 years. I have gained so much from yoga--strength, flexibility, insight, etc :). I have tried many styles, however, I prefer the Iyengar style—I believe focusing on alignment is particularly important. What are your thoughts on this? What style of yoga do you teach?


Kristin said...

Hi Nancy-

It sounds like you have a very rewarding practice! I think it's great that you have gotten out there and tried a lot of different styles, and found one that really speaks to you.

I too believe that alignment is one of the keys to deepening your practice. It is from these often subtle movements that we learn the most. Proper alignment not only prevents injuries, but creates an awareness and shifts the energy in the body so you can breathe and experience your practice more fully. So rewarding!

Perhaps you've already guessed I am trained in the Iyengar style! While I teach several different classes, one of my favorites is a vinyasa flow. Thanks so much for your comments!

Jules said...

Hi Kristin,

What a nice blog post. It is infectious to see how happy kids can get over the simplest things, reminding us how natural it can be to find glee in our social activities and feel truly excited again. It's a shame that built up fears have the power to hold people back from experiencing the thrill of life. I personally go surfing on a regular basis and every time I feel like a child again. It is like time is left on the beach and when I'm in the water I am my pure self. It's an amazing feeling and I hope that more people look for and find their "place" that allows them to be free and feel that pure love and thrill again.

Take care,
~Julie Russell

Sheila Burke, RN, MSN, MBA said...

Kristin, I have been in Iyengar yoga classes for nearly 5 years. The value of a yoga practice has been so wonderful and in many ways unexpected. There are lessons in every experience that relate to the yoga practice; flexibility, balance, patience, acceptance, restoration and flow - as well as the effective use of the right props! Thank you for sharing your insight

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