First, What Is Yoga?
Yoga literally means union, to unite body mind and spirit as the ultimate goal of a yoga practice.
For many who strive to achieve such an accomplishment, the process takes a lifetime. But for those of us who are merely seeking more balance and thus a happier, more fulfilling life, yoga can help.
Yoga is a dynamic practice, it changes with our bodies, as they release and open the pose changes. But it’s more than the physical, the true yoga resides in staying in touch with the breath.
As a moving meditation, yoga isn’t meant to be just another exercise. While their are extensive physical benefits, people often see yoga as something for thin flexible people who adhere to new age spiritual philosophy.
More than anything, yoga is about finding a connection to our deeper selves, even if its a bit uncomfortable at times and moving through it.
While yoga is derived form Hinduism in India, it’s various western representations have created something different all together. There are so many types of yoga that it can be hard to keep up.
I’ve heard of everything from chocolate yoga (literally you eat chocolate during class) to yoga with your dog, hot yoga to kundalini and many more.
Whichever modality, the principles remain the same, remember to breathe, keep proper alignment and accepting ourselves for where we’re at.
Yoga has been shown to help reduce stress and relieve anxiety and depression perhaps because of the immense feeling of connection it bodes.
Other studies show that yoga is therapeutic for relieving low back pain, helping people quit smoking, improving fatigue in breast cancer survivors and as a treatment for chronic pain and fibromyalgia.
Breathing and Prana
Prana is the life force flowing through us, our breath, ever in motion, yet rarely observed. Pranayama is the practice of observing the breath and using the power of our minds to lengthen and bring higher quality to our breathing.
This is how we harness the monkey mind during our yoga or meditation practice. To many, learning to breathe sounds ridiculous, if we didn’t know how to breathe we wouldn’t be here would we!
Yet most of us don’t pay any attention, the breath becomes a passive thing which just occurs without any effort. For most of us, daily stressors result in shallow short breaths.
Tapping Into Our Inner World
So often we are forced to live in the outer world, the world of the physical and concrete, logic and materialism.
This is a stressful place to be all the time, it wears us down and creates a rift or imbalance with the other, more ethereal aspects of being human.
Getting down to the root of our true desires, most of us care more about cultivating feelings of happiness, abundance and clarity than anything else.
How do we cultivate positive feelings? Certainly not by being in a stressed out mentality most of the day.
Practicing yoga can help us to rewire our brains to attract the core desired feelings we strive for in life.
The deeper sentiments that aren’t always so easy to express, can be explored in a slow languid yoga practice.
We can break down barriers in the psyche which hold us back in our everyday lives. Taking a step back and focusing on the present moment is key to achieving bliss and balance.
It’s a process, like anything but I firmly believe when we practice yoga and stick to it we gain clarity in all areas of our lives.
I’ve talked a lot about inflammation in the past, most people experiencing illness are in a chronic state of inflammation.
This is caused by a multitude of factors, stemming from lifestyle choices predominantly. The more ways we can reduce inflammation, the longer and better quality of life we can achieve.
Amazingly one study found that through a consistent yoga practice researchers measured participants cytokines, blood markers which indicate inflammation.
There have also been studies which show yoga and pranayama to be of benefit to those suffering from type-2 diabetes.
Hypertension or high blood pressure can be significantly reduced from practicing yoga. Over time the practice embeds itself in the psyche and practitioners have greater ease and control in monitoring heart rate variability.
Other physical benefits of yoga include treating asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and even weight loss.