Yoga is more than just a workout
Evolution of Yoga
Yoga’s origins involve deeply spiritual and mental practices. The physical part of Yoga generally wasn’t the focus but was a practice to bring balance and health, which was a compliment to being able to meditate for long hours comfortably and having clarity of mind. Yoga, of course, has evolved as it’s reached Western cultures. There’s nothing wrong with change and transformation. That being said, Yoga as a workout looses some of the meaning and benefits from it. This comes down to the fact that not all Yoga teachers teach from the same place. Although some instructors may be teaching from the place of teaching Yoga as a workout, it’s important to recognise that Yoga is so much more than fitness.
Yoga brings awareness
When we come to class we have time to slow down. With a teacher to guide us, we can become more aware. We can also call this mindfulness. It’s about noticing our actions, behaviours, thoughts and emotions. If we’re not aware then we end up moving through life in reaction. We let our emotions or our social conditioning control us, rather than noticing and making a conscious choice ourselves. This process starts small. In a class, it can start by noticing the way we breathe or our thoughts during class. But in taking Yoga outside of the Yoga class we can bring mindfulness to our everyday lives and begin to become conscious of the way we act and feel. This is essentially training for the mind. Like the body, if we don’t guide it with proper training it can fall into bad habits. On the other hand, if we train it well then we can keep growing and strengthening it so we may live up to our best selves.
There is a lot of research available that suggests that Yoga is great for combating stress. One of the primary mechanisms suggested for this is through breath work. When we control our breath we control our stress response in the body. Think about it this way; Stress is part of the flight or fight response. It is meant to give us a boost of energy and resources in times of danger. For a short term response, this is a helpful survival mechanism. When stress is chronic however it can lead to illness and of course, no one wants to feel stressed either. When we take the time to control our breathing it helps take the body out of that fight or flight response, therefore, reducing stress levels. The more we practice this in a Yoga class setting the more we can easily bring it into our everyday lives and help to reduce stress and improve health.
The mind body connection
Yoga connects us. It connects us to the connection between the mind and the body. As we become more aware of how our physical habits and practice affects our mental state and vice versa we start to notice that these two aspects of ourselves are completely connected. The way we hold our shoulders relates to our stress levels. The way we fidget can relate to how relaxed we are. Our thoughts can directly influence the health of the body. In the same way, the way we hold ourselves can directly influence our mental state. Take a moment right now to notice your posture as you read this. Are you sloughed? Tall and upright? Is your jaw clenched our arms folded? As you notice that notice your mood. Try changing your posture and see how it feels for your mood. When we take the time to come to Yoga and bring awareness to this connection we can start to cultivate better habits in our mind and in our body as well as notice this connection.
Yoga is your own Journey
Yoga is so much more than a workout. These reasons are not exhaustive, we’ve honestly barely touched the surface. These three highlights are some key places to start thinking about. If you haven’t yet experienced these aspects of Yoga maybe this can help create some awareness around them. What you get out of Yoga really depends primarily on what you put into your practice and what you are looking for. Secondly, a good teacher or mentor is also essential. Try different classes, instructors and styles to find what works for you. Or if you’ve gotten comfortable with one, challenge yourself to something new.
You can find our class schedule here for many different Yoga and movement classes, styles and teachers. Feel free to ask questions after or before class with your instructor, or start a conversation with a fellow class mate.
See you in class soon!