According to Christian Leeby, Yoga has a uniquely strong effect on personal well-being because it helps you come back to your center, every time you practice.
Christian, who has been teaching Yoga for more than 20 years, explains that you don’t have to “do yoga” to get the benefits. If you know a simple pose or two, you can benefit greatly from doing just a little bit.
He demonstrates this with a video of his favorite pose where he shows you step by step how to perform it.
In this interview he shares some of his personal experiences with Yoga as well as the benefits including stress relief and well-being.
Tell me a little bit about yourself
I heard about Yoga when I was in college and started practicing with a book when I was 20. Having never enjoyed school sports I was curious what it was about. I practiced at home a bit and my low-back pain got worse, so I went to a local teacher’s weekend retreat with 5 classes in all. I was blown away. My teacher had remarkable control of his body and could do impressively difficult poses with ease, but more importantly he demonstrated a keen eye for different students’ needs and a simple way of communicating very specific points in each yoga pose. I loved it. I have studied with incredible teachers over the last 25 years, and have had the honor of traveling to India to study with the world-renowned BKS Iyengar 5 times. Mr. Iyengar is 94 years old and still practices daily at his center in Poona, India. He is a medical genius with Yoga.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga is designed to help the mind, by balancing the body. The many yoga poses fall into distinct categories like forward bends, backbends, twists, inversions, etc. When you have a well-balanced practice that touches on all of these categories, you exercise your body in almost every direction possible, developing strength, balance, and flexibility. But what’s less obvious until you practice is how the yoga poses support the internal systems of the body, like breathing, blood flow, digestion, immune function, etc.
We spend most of our days with our chest collapsed, for example. The shoulders lift up towards the ears and roll forward toward the chest. Practicing Yoga correctly addresses these kinds of issues we may not even be aware of. When you open the chest in a Yoga pose you are stretching those tight muscles around the shoulders, but you’re also making more space for the heart and lungs which literally supports those organs in functioning better.
So Yoga provides not just fitness for the body, but also healing. When the body is freer, the mind is more at ease, which is how Yoga calms the mind by balancing the body.
What role does yoga play in stress relief and well-being?
Yoga is one of the most effective natural tools we have for stress relief. It’s obvious that when you make your body healthier you decrease stress. Yoga does this by fixing or helping problems that already exist, and supporting the body’s ability to prevent issues that have the potential to exist. Meanwhile, the actual practice of Yoga teaches us how to relax in stressful situations which directly relates to facing the many stresses of every day.
Doing something good for yourself always enhances well-being, because you are giving love directly to yourself. Although that is common to any healthy endeavor, Yoga has a uniquely strong effect on personal well being because it helps you come back to your center, every time you practice.
What’s your favorite pose and why?
My favorite Yoga pose is one of the most popular asanas out there called Downward Facing Dog, but done with a specific modification. If you take your hands onto any countertop and walk the feet back a bit, then stretch the hips as far back as you can, you’re in the pose.
This posture is safe for almost every person out there and is fantastically helpful to the whole body. Few yoga poses are this accessible and also this helpful. It’s a great pose for general stiffness, issues with the neck, shoulders, back, and legs – so it covers a lot of ground. It can be practiced almost anywhere, which makes it ideal because you can do a “little Yoga” without having to carve time out for a whole practice.
Try Downward Facing Dog
What advice do you have for someone who is new to yoga?
For newcomers or seasoned Yoga practitioners alike my message is to learn and practice correct alignment. This is the most overlooked aspect of Yoga today, and a crucial point to understand. All bodies are crooked, that’s what happens as we grow up. One shoulder is higher than the other, one hip is farther forward, but most folks aren’t aware of their postural imbalances. When we practice Yoga, if you don’t know that each Yoga pose has very specific alignment points, then the natural imbalances from your posture will determine how you do your Yoga poses. This is what’s happening with most people today. They are getting great results from doing Yoga, but they’re not getting the best results because they are letting their old habitual body patterns run their Yoga practice.
Understanding the correct alignment in a Yoga pose means that you know that your knee, for example, is supposed to point straight. When you look at your knee and you see that it’s turned in, you correct it and make it point straight. Now, instead of having your imbalances run your Yoga, your Yoga is addressing your imbalances. Not only does alignment help us fix our issues, it also protects us against injury. Injuries in Yoga only come from doing a posture with improper alignment. Therefore, practice correctly and never get injured.
If you practice 1 minute of Yoga per day, correctly, you will notice your life improve. Seriously. You don’t have to get into Yoga, make time for Yoga, or become a Yogi to get the incredible benefits from Yoga. Practicing a lot of Yoga is for people who love to do Yoga, but if it’s not your cup of tea then don’t miss the opportunity entirely. One or two good Yoga poses can do a lot for you if they are smart poses, you learn them properly, and you . . . practice them . . . even just a minute a day.
Thanks Christian for sharing so much practical advice about Yoga!
Visit Christian at Miracle of Yoga