The Birmingham area events of September have been plenty for those who practice or teach yoga (called yogis). There have been donation-only classes around town with proceeds going to Sweet Om Alabama and Alabama Possible; there have been outreach yoga classes where teachers have taken yoga to locations that don’t have it, or to populations that might not be able to afford or access studios; and there have been special classes with such benefits as making personal prayer beads. And it’s only September 16th!
National Yoga Month is meant to raise awareness about the many benefits of yoga. This is a nationwide surge of activity and discussion, meant to educate all people about yoga and its many benefits. Yoga isn’t simply an exercise that people might do to increase flexibility. Yoga also isn’t reserved for those who are lithe and lean, and who can twist into knots that seem appropriate only for Cirque de Soleil. Yoga is for everybody, as well as every body!
Yoga has been somewhat narrowly defined by the mainstream for years. When a person says yoga, it is generally connected only to the physical postures called asanas. According to a lot of the mainstream thought and media, this is all there is to yoga. With the development of such fitness programs through technology as Wii and the popular workout P90X, there is really no mention of the other benefits.
The practice of yoga will certainly tone and strengthen not only the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the body while building bone, but will also tone and strengthen love, resolve, patience, compassion, and other innate positive qualities of humankind. And in so doing, the regular practice may remind the person of what he or she believes about God, inviting that divine presence to take up regular residence within the person’s life and heart.
Yoga has scientific proof of its effectiveness in toning and strengthening the body, reducing effects of such diseases as high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems. It has been proven to be effective with anxiety disorder, PTSD, and many others. Yoga’s philosophies are applicable both on and off the mat, inside or outside of studios, regardless of spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. Yoga has something for everyone.
Many people feel most alive singing or being immersed in music. Others promise they feel "high" while engaging themselves in physically demanding athletics. Many people blossom with purpose as they read through important literature such as scripture or any topic that is of interest, like quantum physics, Thoreau, The Art of War, etc. Some people feel most alive when they are in total devotion to God whether it’s in prayer or meditation, or in the simple act of seeing God in everything. Others feel most alive through serving; volunteering and giving of their time freely, expecting nothing in return. All of these are paths to feeling alive, paths to sensing the Divine in life, despite the chaos.
If you actively pursue any of these, you are participating in a type of yoga.
Yes, it’s true. Yoga means union. Not only does one unite body with breath, body with spirit, breath with mind, but also one aligns and unites with whatever that person sees as Divine or God—it’s that buzzing energy that stays within the body after the activity is over. That’s what it’s all about!
Sweet Om Alabama, its founders and supporters understand that people have different ways of feeling and sensing that union. This is why during the National Yoga Month, there have been opportunities to sing, dance, or chant through various classes. There is the ongoing opportunity to volunteer and give of the self through service to humankind in the form of free class offerings or through education of the Alabama Poverty Project and Alabama Possible. For those who are less physical, there are meditation opportunities this month (check the site). And of course, there are plenty of physical classes still on the calendar for those who do it for the sweat.
As a matter of fact, the biggest events of the month are Friday and Saturday of this week (September 21 and 22). On Friday, there will be Movie and Meditation where people will gather and watch the movie Lunch Line and participate in a meditation led by Akasha Ellis. Saturday morning, rain or shine, area yogis of all kinds will gather at the foot of the Vulcan overlooking beautiful Birmingham and will participate in 108 Sun Salutations. All are invited; even the non-physical yogis.
There will be space for everyone! If physical practice is not appealing, come anyway, and be a part of the energy of hundreds of bodies moving in unison with the rest of the planet for Global Mala. The practice begins at 8:00 and will be led by area teachers rotating in and out while navigating through the masses aiding and assisting the practicing yogis. There will be accommodating postures offered for those who find the sequence too difficult, so don’t worry. And whether you do one Sun Salutation or 108, please stick around for a meditation led by The Envision Project, a new service group of the Birmingham area.
Please check the calendar at www.SweetOmAlabama.org for an update on area happenings, and to find events for the rest of the month!
Namaste and Sat Nam!
Laurie M. Knight is a local yogi, Reiki practitioner, writer, friend, and loving soul who simply wants to help people heal. Her opinion and view of yoga might not represent and reflect the opinions of all participants, teachers, and people involved in area studios or Sweet Om Alabama because all people are drawn to yoga in a way that speaks to that person’s soul and his or her understanding of life and purpose. For many, yoga is simply exercise☺