YOGA

YOGA (4)

Thursday, 17 April 2014 12:20

Yoga Crosses Cultures

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ON any given day I interact with people from around the world. I attend meetings with colleagues from France, the Philippines and Bangladesh. I write emails to Japan and make Skype calls to friends in Chile. My neighbors are Greek and my boss is from Egypt. In this diverse but connected world I face the challenges of intercultural communications every day.

A powerful technique in cross-cultural interactions is empathy. Cultivating an empathetic feeling as we interact with friends, colleagues and strangers whose thinking and values differ from our own, helps to widen our perspective on the world. But trying to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings can also have a destabilizing effect on us. Through cross-cultural communication, it’s possible to become vulnerable and get lost in a medley of conflicting values, customs and rules. Empathy needs a force to balance it out.

Through my practice of yoga I have learned two concepts that have helped me make sense of what that balance means for everything in our lives, including intercultural communications. The Sanskrit terms for these concepts are Sthira and Sukha. Sthira translates into steadiness or groundedness, and Sukha translates into permeability or flexibility. Achieving balance between Sthira and Sukha will lead to more happiness, understanding and self-knowledge.

 

Thursday, 17 April 2014 12:19

Bad Excuses and Good Reasons

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JUDIT TOROK

A regular visitor to Tokyo, New York City-based Yoga Instructor and Interculturalist Judit Torok shares her techniques for alleviating big city stress.

Bad Excuses

Obviously, these are bad and almost humorous excuses for not joining a beginner’s Spanish class. After all, not speaking a language is precisely the right reason to start learning a foreign language. Taking an introductory class is a safe and fun way to begin a journey toward understanding other cultures as well as learning about ourselves. A determined language learner also develops qualities such as persistence, willingness to make mistakes and overcoming self-consciousness.

The situation is not so different when it comes to yoga classes. As a teacher, I have heard a variety of excuses – or apologies – for why someone is not willing to try a yoga class. “Oh, I’m just a beginner,” I’ve heard people say. “I’m really not that good at yoga and, besides, I have very tight muscles and a bit of a backache,” others have told me. These are also bad excuses, mostly ungrounded or even silly. An introductory yoga class is specifically designed for beginners so that they can learn the foundations of a safe practice that ultimately leads to a journey of deeper self-understanding.

Thursday, 17 April 2014 12:19

Yoga on the Go

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A regular visitor to Tokyo, New York City- based Yoga Instructor and Interculturalist Judit Torok shares her techniques for alleviating big city stress.

Yoga on the Go

Traveling can take a lot out of us, physically and mentally. Running from trains to taxis, carrying and lifting heavy bags, standing and waiting in long lines and being jammed into tight and uncomfortable spaces – these are common for travelers. And through all of this we often forget to take care of ourselves and instead accumulate anxiety and strain on our bodies that can have serious long-term consequences for our well-being.

Yoga can teach anyone to respond to stressful situations with freedom and flexibility. By focusing attention on your posture, balance and breathing for even a few minutes a day, you can reap some of the benefits of yoga.

Don’t have time for yoga? No problem. The two variations on yoga poses that I will teach you are beneficial for anyone and will fit right into your daily schedule. The stretches are easy. They don’t require big changes to your daily habits, and they don’t take a lot of time. Even if you don’t consider yourself the ‘yogatype,’ the simple practice of effective breathing, stretching and relaxing can improve your general well-being and alleviate some of the tensions associated with travel.

Thursday, 17 April 2014 12:14

Yoga for Everyone

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A regular visitor to Tokyo, New York City-based Yoga Instructor and Interculturalist Judit Torok shares her techniques for alleviating big city stress.

Yoga for Everyone

I recently read an article about parents of elementary school children in California who were outraged about their children practicing Ashtangastyle yoga at school as part of their physical education program. They claimed that yoga is inappropriate and dangerous for kids because they believe their children are being indoctrinated into the Hindu religion in a public school. I couldn’t disagree with them more. These parents, and unfortunately many other people, hold inaccurate notions of this ancient practice.

The idea that yoga is a religious activity designed to worship Hindu deities is just one of the many misconceptions about it. People frequently associate yoga with Indian gurus with long beards, bead necklaces and white turbans. A more modern misperception is perpetrated by the media images of well-toned and attractive young people in eye-catching yoga poses captured generally on the beach with a beautiful sunset behind them or in a forest with a waterfall as the background. While purely religious sects of yoga do exist and there are expensive yoga retreats organized at Caribbean beaches, these are not the norm and instead obscure what I believe is yoga’s universal appeal.

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