Yoga, we see and hear about it everywhere. There are over 20 million adults practicing yoga in the United States. That is more than the population of it's top four largest cities.. With so many people practicing these days, I thought we could go over what yoga is, and how it can serve us.
“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” -Sharon Gannon
What is yoga?
Yoga is a 5,000 year old practice originating in India. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means union or integration. Another translation is to yoke. This is the binding process of the body and the mind together. The practice of yoga includes breathing techniques, meditation, and asana (poses).
Yoga is not a religious practice, but many see it as a spiritual one. Using all aspects of yoga together can create connection to oneself, connection to others, and enlightenment (an even larger topic). Most people use yoga as a physical practice and then come to learn the infinite possibilities the practice has to offer.
Photo Credit: Perri Drewno
What does yoga do for your physical health?
Physically, yoga can help with so much. Basic effects are improved flexibility, strength and muscle tone. The long term use of yoga can also help with things like joint health, arthritis, and migraines. Studies have shown significant pain reduction for arthritis with just one class a week. Other effects over time can be regulated metabolism, balanced hormonal system and reduced blood pressure.
Yoga can also help with posture. When we begin to find our center and open the chest through back bends and other poses with similar shapes, our posture can improve. As with most other exercises, yoga can boosts immunity. That is one great excuse for keeping this ancient practice with you even in the winter!
What does yoga do for your emotional/mental health?
Emotionally, yoga has been proven in many cases to help with depression, anxiety, and stress. When we can help moderate these responses, we sleep better and find it easier to relax and focus.
Creating the healthy habit of practicing yoga at least a few times a week can encourage us to do other things to take care of ourselves. Most people also see a boost in self esteem and inner strength.
What are other benefits?
A deepened spiritual practice, and a connection to something bigger is often over looked as people begin their yoga journey. So many yogi's start attending classes to get fit or gain flexibility but after getting to know the practice find that yoga is something so much larger than that.
Yoga IS so much bigger than just the asana practice. When the philosophy is learned, it is discovered to be a way of life.