Because yoga has made such a difference in my life, has become such a life "tool" as well as key component of my exercise regimen, I have become interested in going deeper with it. I am currently engaged in 200 hour yoga teacher training - it's an intense experience. The training has opened my eyes to even more layers of medicine and "magic" yoga can offer than I imagined possible. When I try to tell my friends and colleagues about it, I can tell they sense my energy and are attracted to it, but the words I try to communicate about the principles of a committed and practiced on-and-off-the-mat yogic life are hard to connect on.
Since I have become so familiar, so comfortable with yoga as a tool for not only wellness, but for life, I am still a little surprised when I hear people express strong statements about what yoga is, but really is not.
Yoga is a religion!
Yoga is 'woo-woo'!
Yoga - isn't that just stretching?
These are common perceptions and those who seek to expand yoga into the mainstream are listening. The studio through which I am certifying is aiming to make yoga much more accessible to the everyman and everywoman. Making it more about the fitness and physical practice than the theory and philosophy of yoga. The hope is that once people "make it in the door," and begin to experience how life-transforming the practice of yoga really can be, it will open up new possibilities for exploration of the many other facets of the practice.
In the book "The Heart of Yoga," the author describes yoga as anything that gets one closer to enlightenment, to their highest intelligence. That yoga is a practice intended to help someone become wiser, more able to understand things they were not before. But that it is also a tool for healing. That the body is wise - the intelligence of nature, if we can just get ourselves out of the way, can take care of so much without interference from us, from external sources.
The scientific literature backs this up in health and health outcomes: yoga has been linked to reduced blood pressure and heart rate variability, better heart failure outcomes, help for those with cancer, multiple benefits for people with arthritis, and improved mental well-being (and the list goes on, and is growing).
The physical practice of yoga can be a tool in this way, yes, but so can simple breath work and meditation - yoga all the same.
There are many paths to explore and one path may serve better than another at any given time. And gradually, naturally, the exploration of one path can open up an interest in another. Yoga can be simple breath work - working on taking fuller, deeper breaths or just becoming more mindful of our breathing. It can be meditation. It can be physical practice of asanas, yogic poses. But, importantly, the practice of yoga must be tailored to each individual. What is going to be most helpful is going to be very individual for each person.
Perhaps "The Heart of Yoga" says it best for me here:
"Yoga serves the individual and does so through inviting transformation rather than by giving information."
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Published On: August 07, 2013