“For the dominant members of the species”
Silverback Yoga are occasional beginner yoga classes presented by Kerry Wilson, designed primarily for older decision-makers and those otherwise shouldering significant mental and physical stress. If you are interested in these classes, contact Kerry at L7imbo@aol.com to get on the mailing list, or othererwise keep an eye out on our on-line class schedules. It’s for people who never thought they’d do yoga.
We are the yoga that relieves the suffering of the stove-up and sore. Becoming alert, Silverbacks increasingly move with strength and balance, out of the shrinking cage of pain and restrained movement. We open chests, open hips, fill hearts and lungs, and expand the energy everywhere. We walk tall, breathe deeply, and don’t collapse into the grave. It’s a no slouching practice. Our yoga is clear-eyed, scientific and instantly verifiable. It can be done anywhere, at any time. Let the Big Ape live–no handlers needed.
No one other than you can take responsibility for the safety of your yoga practice. No instructor can know or feel what your body is telling you. One of the great benefits of yoga is its tendency to put you more in touch with your own body. When doing yoga, it is you who must listen to your body and monitor your performance, and it’s you who must react accordingly. If at any time you feel pain, or feel that taking or holding a pose is beyond your ability at that moment, please relax, take a restful pose, and simply breathe. To this teacher, it’s the most impressive move you can make in a yoga class.
Dominant members of the species have often succeeded because they push through pain or injuries, and tend to look at almost every situation as a competition. Yoga’s primary benefit for you will likely be its instructions regarding patience and working only with the “edges” of your own body’s performance. This is not a competition with others – it’s an exploration of your own limitations and an expansion of your own range of movement and, dare I say, your own mind. No two bodies are alike, and truly dominant members will focus on expressing their own extraordinary form, and not worry about what others are doing.
Why We Do Yoga
You will eventually come up with your own list, but here’s why I practice, and why I want to share my experience with you:
- To Relieve Suffering: I see friends stiff and sore, with increasingly limited ranges of motion. Frequently in pain, they start to avoid what they like to do most. They become hunched and stooped, as if they are preparing to dive into their graves. Like no other exercise, yoga can relieve mental stress and physical pain, freeing you to live your precious life more fully.
- To Enhance the Immune System: Yoga will not, in and of itself, make you lose weight, increase your cardio-vascular capacity, or give you six-pack abs, but a regular yoga practice will enhance your body’s own system to resist disease and heal injuries. There is a connection between your body and mind, and yoga provides a vehicle for stress relief that tangibly benefits the autonomic nervous systems, and particularly the parasympathetic nervous system.
- To Improve Mood: There’s lots of science out there that provides data showing that a regular yoga practice decreases anxiety and simply makes you happier. The science particularly supports yoga’s positive effect on your sex life, manifested by increased testosterone levels, sexual stamina and more powerful orgasms. Yoga has been demonstrated to materially increase GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid, a major neurotransmitter in your brain) and to improve access to deep sleep. By the way, Silverbacks also like to have a few laughs. It’s the best medicine.
- To Avoid Injury: As dominant members age, they intelligently note that injuries are much harder to recover from, and that injuries can derail the best intentions and exercise plans. Yoga improves strength, balance and flexibility, thus tangibly reducing the risk of injuries caused by falls and awkward positions, whether they are related to getting out of tree stands, hitting down on the ball, snow skiing or just walking around your house in the dark.
- To Clear the Mind: Dominant members have a lot on their minds, often shouldering an inordinate share of responsibilities. A regular yoga practice allows you to escape periodically from those distractions. You actively refresh your formidable brains and access creative forces normally masked by everyday concerns.
Principles of Practice
Silverback Yoga is based on “traditional” asana practice, which originated in India, and has been fundamentally enhanced by the impressive experimentation and improvements provided by both Indian and Western teachers during the last century. However, rather than just promoting a practice in which a teacher or video guides you through a series of exercises, I wish to encourage you to develop your own practice, done by yourself, and done on a daily, or almost daily, basis. Classes obviously provide initial instruction and great supplemental benefit, and I encourage you to also take advantage of the many classes offered by the teachers available at Inside/Out Fitness Co-op (you might find, especially initially, that you want the discipline a class provides). But with respect to all of your yoga activities, please keep the following principles in mind:
- MAKE TIME EACH DAY FOR YOGA: Dominant members are busy, but we know that we can prioritize anything we choose. Make yoga a priority in your life (at least for a realistic test period). You don’t need a friend, a team or a class to do yoga, just a few square feet of space. You can do it in the morning, you can do it before bed, you can do it before or after other exercise. Like anything important, it takes some will power to make it to your mat each day, but you will never walk away from a yoga session feeling like it was a waste of time.
- BREATHE: This yoga is breath-centered and breathing properly involves the whole body. Perhaps the greatest single benefit of a yoga practice is that it teaches us a new consciousness of breathing and how to use our breath (and how our breath can use us) to expand our body’s range of motion from the inside. Always pay close attention to your breath and experiment with synchronizing your breath with your movement. Always keep breathing, even in the most intense postures. Always breathe through your remarkable nose.
- WORK YOUR EDGE: A yoga posture is an always moving target, that consists only of your body’s (and your mind’s) present capability of getting close to it. The beauty and science of yoga is the patience to recognize the working edge of your present flexibility and then learning how to breathe, balance, relax and expand in relation to that edge. It’s at those edges that you discover what muscles are and are not essential to a pose and consequently (and safely) expand your range of motion. This race seldom goes to the swiftest runner off the blocks – it’s won by the conscious, the patient and the aware.
- CONTRACTION AND RELAXATION: You cannot really relax a muscle until you fully work a muscle, and you cannot effectively lengthen a muscle unless you effectively contract it. A good yoga practice utilizes (and sometimes exhausts) strength training to achieve a deep and refreshing relaxation at the end of the practice. Without weights or machines, yoga provides many moves that can intensely work major muscle groups.
- FORM YOUR CORE: Silverbacks understand that dynamic strength and powerful movement begins with the body’s core, and particularly the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms. This yoga works to involve all of the major muscle groups (and the abdominal cavity) to integrate core strength. It seeks the muscular-skeletal alignment necessary for back health and to fight the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
- STHIRA SUKHAM ASANAM: The earliest known reference to yoga practice said that posture (which was sitting posture used for meditation) should be stable, strong and steady (in Sanskrit, sthira) and easy, relaxed and comfortable (sukha). You’ll find that in nearly every yoga posture there is a place that you can come to where you are getting a maximum (for you at that time) extension and are strongly engaging the muscles necessary to keep the posture, but, once you consciously relax, there are a lot of muscles that don’t need to be engaged, and can be relaxed. Look for this “good space” and dwell in it. Particularly pay attention to your neck, that seems to want to get involved in nearly every posture, but is needed for very few.
- CONCENTRATION: Modern life is antithetical to mental concentration. Concentration, remembering what you are doing, and continuing to do it, is essential to a strong yoga practice, and the practice itself encourages concentration. Concentration is an essential precondition to equanimity.
- ALIGNMENT: The human body is not perfectly straight or balanced, but it remarkably seeks to align itself around a vertical axis. Often, however, we carry old wounds. Iyengar noted that “God is in the centerline of the body.” Yoga may be all just about honoring that centerline and becoming aware of the spiraling forces of the body that intrinsically seek equilibrium to support that centerline. At their most imposing, Silverbacks stand tall, efficiently defying gravity.
- YOGA IS JUST PART OF THE GAME: Silverbacks know that their yoga practice is just a part of the good life. They know that their moral behavior, diet. sleeping habits, and other physical and mental exercise will inform their yoga practice and similarly affect their lives. Reciprocally, this yoga is not just done on a mat. We do yoga at our desks, in the field, and in the middle of the night. When possible, we move elegantly. Always, we know that we can practice. This practice provides new strategies and can be powerful multiplier of other healthy behaviors.
- SAVASANA: Importantly, know that you will die. More importantly, let’s enjoy the meantime. Practice the corpse pose at the beginning and end of each session. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to the universe.
Increasing health care costs are the greatest contributors to the true national debt. A fit and healthier populace, from birth to old age, would significantly reduce (not just decrease the increase of) these costs. The promotion and teaching of good health (it’s so cheap!), and the taking of personal responsibility for your own health, is a direct, conservative, libertarian and common sense response to this crisis. Silverback Yoga is a political act.