by Nancy Coleman
The first two groups set their mats down when they arrived in the room and my third group, a combination of women 65+, some in wheelchairs and some with their yoga mats, formed a semi-circle for class.
I stood in front of the classes at Central California Women’s Facility ready with the first move that I teach everyone — the foundational alignment for standing and sitting that, if practiced on a regular basis, will not only stretch and strengthen the body throughout the day, but allow the stress response in the nervous system to relax.
As the women began to move, I could feel the release of stress, and the flow they began to have informed my body about what to give them next as we seamlessly moved from one exercise to another. In one class, a student asked me to stop so she could ask me a question: “Are you reading our Souls while you’re teaching us? I think you are!”
We all laughed as there was a truth to her question, I could feel what their bodies needed to open so there was a feeling of deep connection.
I taught the women in the wheelchairs using the same principles as the women who were on their yoga mats. The aliveness in their faces, the bantering between them across the room, the outbursts of comments filled both the room and me with so much joy.
Stretching the body strengthens our joy. This is a basic truth of movement: if the muscles are tight, the body feels weak. If the fibers of the muscles are locked or spasmed, then mobility is impaired — mobility of the joints, range of motion of the limbs, spine, hips — the whole universe of the body is affected. Blood flow is restricted and sleep may be disturbed by night muscle cramps.
My basic premise is that our bodies are speaking to us in their own language — are we feeling healthy and flexible or unhealthy and tight? Secondly, let’s consider our minds. The mind likes to be the boss and tell the body what to do, how it should look and what it wants to eat. But guess what — ultimately the body will rebel and let us know that commanding it that way causes stress. Let our bodies lead and have our minds be kind to them. See the body’s innate wisdom. Make choices that celebrate the bodies we have by treating them as if they’re the most precious gift we’ve ever received.