Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 4.14.17 PMKathryn E. Livingston

Lately, I’ve encountered quite a few people who matter-of-factly state, “I can’t do yoga.” The reasons vary from hips to knees, necks, and backs, to just feeling too tired or too old. But the way I look at it, if you’re alive you are breathing, and if you are breathing you can do yoga. Especially Kundalini yoga!

What these folks are actually saying is they can’t do asana, and that may be true. But asana is only one limb of yoga. There are seven others, so really there is no excuse not to practice. (“Excuses are self abuses,” said Yogi Bhajan.)

Of course, it would be great if we could all be up for a challenging Nabhi kriya all the time. But the reality is, sometimes we just aren’t. In Kundalini yoga, however, there are so many meditations and pranayams that there is no reason to give up the practice even when there’s a physical issue that inhibits or impacts movement or strength.

I heard once of a yogini who had faced a critical illness and was in a coma for a time. When she awoke she was too weak to speak or do much of anything, but her friends and family knew she was going to recover and be okay, because she managed to immediately press her fingers into Gyan Mudra. Add the breath, a mantra or both and imagine how much yoga one could practice on one’s back in a hospital bed!

When we feel weak or we’re physically challenged, we can still sit in a chair, or rest on our back, and breathe. We can chant mantras for healing, for strength, for hope. We can do some of the fascinating and effective pranayams found in Praana, Praanee, Praanayam, such as the Exercise to Simply Make You a Saint (inhaling in four strokes through the nose while mentally chanting “So” with each stroke and exhaling four strokes while mentally chanting “Hung”). The fingers are folded into the mounds of the hands with the thumbs away from the palms, and the elbows are bent with the hands in line with the ears, palms forward. Three minutes are “more than enough!” (p.50)

There are also many beautiful meditations such as Kirtan Kriya that don’t require much movement (even if you can’t do Frog Pose, most likely you can move your fingers!). And one can also close the eyes and envision the movement, while just sitting quietly and focusing on the breath.

Try this version of Kirtan Kriya.

In addition to pranayama, meditation, and gentle kriyas, we can study yoga by reading the yogic texts and scriptures. That is yoga, too. And so is living a life of gratitude and selfless service, practicing Ahimsa (non-harming) and Satya (truthfulness) and following the other yamas and niyamas. Asana is really just the tip of the yogic iceberg.

No matter how old—or how infirm—I become I know I will always “do” yoga. I will live and breathe yoga until my dying breath. As long as I can chant Ra Ma Da Sa, touch my index fingers and thumbs in Gyan Mudra, or inhale and exhale, yoga will inform my life. No excuses! Yoga? Yes, we can!

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