Yoga is a tradition thousands of years old, it comes from India, and it’s not about putting your foot behind your head. I just wanted to get that out of the way right away. If you are like me you always have looked at yoga as a workout. YES, yoga can be a workout but in my humble opinion if you are looking for a workout then yoga might not be the most appropriate choice. YES YES YES I know there are going to be some that disagree with me on that point and that is ok. My reason for even bringing it up is I think yoga is WAY more than just a physical exercise.
The definition of yoga can be translated in many different ways. I think it’s best to find one that speaks to you. For me it is this, “Yoga is an art, a science and a philosophy. It touches the life of an individual at every level, physical, mental, and spiritual. It is a practical method for making one’s life purposeful, useful and noble. Yoga means union. This to me is where the magical stuff happens. When the body meets the mind and there is a union.
In the West, generally when we hear the word yoga we think of physical postures the body folds into on your mat ( ASANA practice ). This is only ONE part of the meaning of yoga. Now after my yoga teacher trainings I have come to see the process of doing yoga in a whole new light. The other components of yoga are pranayama, mantra, mudra and meditation.
There are so many benefits to doing yoga, these are just three that I think every single person can benefit from no matter what.
1- Yoga provides you with the opportunity to create openness in your body and mind. You can achieve this through every aspect of yoga. When you are on the mat with your Asana practice you can strengthen your body and create space between your muscles, ligaments and fascia. Each pose you preform is focused on a specific group of muscles, these poses can be very simple and create results. There is a pose and modification for everyone. Yoga is considered low impact. The style of yoga I teach focuses on muscle recovery, relaxation and creating balance in the mind and body structure. A good portion of the Asana poses I teach are on the floor and props can be used to assist the individual getting into the pose. Each individual has their own limitations and body alignment and this is why you can not compare your pose to another. Yoga is not getting to a destination, it is about the practice and every single person out there can create great benefits if guided in an appropriate way.
2- Yoga can really help you relax, be less reactive and gain a better nights sleep. Whether you are on your mat or practicing a meditation, yoga can create great benefits in these areas. Mediation often gets a bad rap because people think that they have to shut off their brain to do it. Well of course they quit. I would quit to if this was my goal because your brain can not be shut off. It was designed to think and that is what it will continue to do. However, with proper guidance and tips I can tell you with 100% confidence that you can meditate. Meditation is actually one of my favorite parts of yoga. Once you understand what the monkey brain is all about (term used in meditation for not being able to shut off your mind) you can tap into the stillness. It is a practice, just like when you are learning to play a sport or learn a new instrument. The meditation practice you do each day can literally change your hormones, your blood pressure, your cortisol levels and so so much more.
3-Everyone needs their breath to stay alive, this is a fact we all know. But did you know that by actually training your breath you can actually change your heart rate, cool your nerves, help with that monkey mind mentioned above and also help you fall and stay asleep? Yep it is the honest truth. Proper yogic breathing can actually change your blood PH (acid/alkaline in just minutes). This is a yogic tool- pranyama, that is available to everyone, every size, every fitness level and every age group out there. The wonderful thing about this part of yoga is you can take it with you anywhere and it is free.
Last I want to emphasize that in my opinion yoga is not a workout it is a chance to dive inward. Yoga is the opening of the heart and mind. If you can breathe than you can do yoga and enjoy all the benefits it has to give you.