For many people, yoga is a fun hobby and way of staying in shape.
For Jack Connors, a yoga practitioner and instructor in Lacombe and Blackfalds, it is a way of life.
Many people, including many practitioners that Connors knows, focus solely on the physical aspect of yoga, said Connors. He went on to say that there is much more to yoga that than. It is an activity that focuses on the mind, breathing and body.
“Yoga is more than just being able to do a real flexible pose,” said Connors.
Because everyone is constantly being bombarded with thoughts, many of them negative, Connors said it is difficult for people to just take time out to be themselves.
Yoga allows him an opportunity to do just that, take time out from life.
He added that aspect of yoga, being able to take time to just be, is one of the big reasons he continues to participate in it.
“I think yoga teaches you to be a witness of your thoughts,” said Connors. He said what he means by this is yoga gives a person time to recognize their thoughts as being just thoughts without having to react to them.
“The metaphor I like to use is that you are sitting in a subway station and your thoughts are the cars going by. You don’t have to get on the car, you can just watch it go by. And it will go by, but so many of us are just used to jumping on every single train.”
Yoga has a calming effect on the body and mind, said Connors, and works to counter the SNS, or sympathetic nervous system, more commonly known as the fight or flight response. In times of stress, this response draws blood away from the organs into the limbs.
However, Connors said that many people become stressed by everyday occurrences, like getting a parking ticket, that can trigger an SNS response and subsequently have an effect on the body itself.
For example, many people ‘carry’ stress in their shoulders, causing knots and tight muscles in those areas of the body. Connors said yoga can work to relax these muscles and calm the response of such would-be stressful instances when they happen.
Breathing is also very important in yoga, said Connors.
He said breathing is not only important in order to do the poses, breathing exercises like alternate nostril breathing add to the calming effect of yoga and countering the SMS system.
Connors added that breathing is something humans take for granted much of the time but it is important because it is what determines if we are stressed.
Anybody who can sit on a mat and move around a bit can do yoga, said Connors. He added that there is no such thing as being too inflexible to try it.
“Some people tell me, Jack I can never do your class because I’m too inflexible,” said Connors. “To me, that’s like saying you are too dirty to shower.”
In fact, Connors said he himself was very inflexible prior to doing yoga and would never have dreamed he was capable of doing the poses he can perform now.
He also encouraged anyone to at least try yoga at some point in their lives.
While Connors admitted there are many benefits to yoga, he said those benefits should not be the reason someone wishes to partake in the activity. He said that people should do yoga simply to better themselves and that the benefits are more of a side effect.
Connors first started doing yoga as a distraction from his homesickness while he was going to school in France. A friend gave him a yoga DVD to follow and Connors was instantly hooked.
After returning to Canada, Connors continued his yoga training in Toronto and then in 2011 in Edmonton under Yogi Vishkvetu. It was there that Connors received his 200 hour yoga instructor certification and he will be traveling to India in November to study further under Yogi Vishkvetu to receive his 500 hour certification.
For the summer, Connors teaches twice a week at the Lacombe location of Dancer’s Edge Studio.
Classes are done on a drop in basis from 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and cost $10 a class.
Classes at the Blackfalds studio will begin again in the fall.