Seane Corn is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher. She talks with us here about the power of yoga -- and how you can benefit from the practice in just 5 minutes a day.
You’re a huge proponent of yoga. Why? What can it do?
For some people yoga is a workout; for some it’s a spiritual practice. People in our culture are very addicted to our tension, which creates control and separation from our feelings, our vulnerability. When you practice yoga you release the tension, which creates vulnerability. And vulnerability is what leads to surrender, and surrender is what creates relationship with God – both within and beyond.
First people might get attracted to yoga because of the inevitable release of tension, but if they do it long enough something else happens. It’s not their bodies that open, it’s their hearts. And after that, game on. You start to see the world in a very, very different way.
Yoga is one of many tools that we need to utilize in order to be – not reactive in the world – but responsive.
Is there a simple yoga technique that those in The Women’s Conference can do in the morning to get calm and centered?
It depends on where they are physically and emotionally. For some people I would recommend getting out of bed in the morning, going into another environment, sitting still, getting quiet for about 5 minutes, and breathing very deeply.
For others I would say take it a step further – take 5 minutes -- 3 minutes to breathe deeply, and then for those last 2 minutes bring your palms together and create an intention for that day. For example, “Dear Spirit, may this day open my heart so I can love bigger than I ever imagined possible,” or, “May I transform fear into faith and my resistance into surrender.”
These kinds of intentions allow us to realize what is really important and move back into our lives in a more conscious and connected way.
That’s one example of yoga. Some people may not have that readiness for spirit. So it could just be a matter of coming into a cross-legged position, taking a couple of deep breaths – twisting your spine one way and then another. Getting on all fours and just arching your back and then rounding your back. Standing and doing a couple of side stretches. Just stretching and moving your body in one position and then in a counter position. Just five minutes of stretching the body is a nice way of oxygenating the body enough to begin the day.
They can even go on YouTube to download a 4 minute video if they don’t feel the confidence to make stuff up on their own.
Why is the breath so important?
We tend to breathe high and short up in our chest – and when we breathe like this it stimulates the adrenals, and that can put us in fight or flight mode. Breathing deeply has an impact on the parasympathetic nervous system, and it aligns the mind with the body.
Try inhaling through the mouth, like you’re sucking in through a straw, then as you exhale, imagine you’re fogging up a piece of glass that’s in front of you. You’re drawing the breath in over the vocal chords. Then do that breath, but do it with the mouth closed. That breath is called Ujjayi Pranayama and it’s the most effective breath to quiet the mind.
How has yoga changed your life?
Simply it’s made me a happier, healthier and more committed person. I like people in a way that I never imagined I would. I know that if I don’t get on the mat, my tension can easily cloak my ability to be empathic. When I do yoga, I feel, and when I feel I remember who I am and who we are to each other. I couldn’t imagine my life without this practice – because I know what the alternative is, which is shut down and withdrawal, which is no longer how I want to live my life.
Seane Corn is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher known for her impassioned activism, unique self-expression and inspirational style of teaching that incorporates both the physical and mystical aspects of the practice of yoga. For more on Seane Corn, visit SeaneCorn.com.
Read our earlier interview with Seane Corn: Saving Mothers' Lives in Uganda