“Martha, how many times do I have to tell you to sit down and be quiet?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that as a student, I would have a lot of dollars! I suffer from an unfortunate condition. The technical name for this medical malady is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or as I call it, Monkey Brain. I was not diagnosed until I was an adult. My diagnosis was not a surprise, but a relief. Finally, I had an explanation for why I couldn’t be a “well-behaved” student. In the sixties and seventies, this meant still and silent. Back in the day, students got in serious trouble for not following the still and silent rule. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t comply. Thank goodness, my parents didn’t believe in corporal punishment, or I would have been in a world of pain.

As I became an adult, I had more control over my Monkey Brain, but it was still a source of frustration for me. Mercifully, I was introduced to yoga . Yoga means to yoke, or join together. It is a practice that enhances physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. Yoga has improved my balance, strength and flexibility. Most importantly, it has enabled me to reach Savasana, which is a state of total relaxation.

Depending on the source, yoga has been practiced in India for as long as 10,000 years! Yoga was introduced to the West around the 1890’s, but it didn’t start gaining significant popularity in America until Indira Devi opened a yoga studio in Hollywood, California in 1947. Hey, if the Stars were doing it, it must be great!

There are several types of yoga. The three that are most well-known in the United States are power yoga, Bikram, and Hatha. Power yoga, as its name implies, is used for strengthening and toning muscles. Bikram, or hot yoga, is practiced in a room that is between 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is primarily used to loosen muscles and cleanse the body by sweating profusely. Hatha yoga includes poses that enhance balance, strength and flexibility. It is recommended for beginners, but it can also be made increasingly more challenging for more experienced practitioners.

Yoga’s popularity in America continues to rise. According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study, conducted by the Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance, the number of yoga practitioners in the United States has increased from 20.4 million in 2012 to 36 million in 2016. The number of men who practice yoga has more than doubled since 2012, while the number of people over 50 who practice yoga has tripled. This includes me. Increasing my balance helps reduce the chance of falling and fracturing my hip years from now.

Some yoga classes incorporate aromatherapy. For example, my instructor provides us with lavender scented eye pillows to be used during Savasana. Nice. Some classes use soft background music or soundtracks. But every type of yoga includes Savasana. Savasana is done for at least ten minutes toward the end of the session. The purpose of Savasana is to rejuvenate mind, body and spirit while reducing stress and tension. During Savasana, the room is usually quiet and darkened. The practitioners are lying perfectly still on their backs, with their arms resting at their sides and their palms facing heavenward. Everyone’s eyes are closed. This is called, and I always smile when I say this, corpse pose. The yogi (yoga instructor) often guides the practitioners through a series of muscle tense and release moves. This helps the practitioner relax their muscles and hopefully reach Savasana, or total relaxation. After Savasana, the yogi leads a brief, seated meditation period used to re-integrate the body-mind-spirit world. The last word the yogi says is, “Namaste” which is Sanskrit for “hail”. This is a conventional Hindu expression used in greeting or parting, while holding the hands together in a prayer position.

Practitioners of yoga find that over time, heart rate, blood pressure, tension, and overall anxiety gradually decrease, while energy levels, memory, and the ability to concentrate increase. For me, the increased ability to concentrate means relief from Monkey Brain for longer periods of time. Ahhh, Namaste.