Yoga is an ancient science of health and spiritual awakening, the depth and breadth of which go way beyond the scope of this article. In the West, yoga typically conjures images of attractive white women doing handstands and pretzel-like physical postures. To me, this is sad and exclusionary, not to mention incredibly lacking. In this article, I’ll offer a basic overview of the benefits and misconceptions of this ancient practice from nearly two decades of practice.
What is Yoga?
Yoga goes far beyond physical postures. The intention of yoga is to “to yoke” or to unify and integrate our human and spirit selves. To me, yoga is the ongoing process of personal alchemy, wherein a third energy arises. In this case, that third energy is the unification of our human and spirit selves where we become physical embodiments of light and love, soul animating human form, the meeting place of Earth and spirit.
Is Yoga A Religion?
While yoga has its roots in ancient India and is heavily steeped in Hinduism, on its own, it’s not a religion. It’s a practice that when adopted holistically and with an open heart, makes you a better you. Regardless of your own spiritual or religious beliefs, having a healthy body and still mind makes you a better devotee to those things.
Why Practice Yoga?
There are many reasons to begin a yoga practice. Some people are looking to improve their physique, some desire increased flexibility or to manage an injury, some people are looking to reduce stress and anxiety. In my opinion, whatever gets you to the mat is perfect, and over time, what keeps you there will evolve and change.
My practice began when I was about 12 or 13 as a way to improve my physique. As an overweight, SAD (Standard American Diet) consuming child, I often bounced around from trend to trend. From my first few classes, I was hooked and have been ever since. What brought me to the mat isn’t what has kept me on the mat for nearly two decades. To me, yoga, in its many different varieties and traditions, is medicine. It helps me anchor myself into my Self. It helps me continue my life’s purpose, which is a continued practice of personal alchemy.
What Yoga Does For Your Life, Health, Relationships
Practitioners of yoga in its many forms and disciplines experience improvements in their lives, health, and relationships. As I mentioned earlier, the practice of yoga is simply another iteration of the process of personal alchemy. It’s another tool in the holistic healer’s medicine bag!
Benefits of Embodiment & Movement
Having resources in your personal practice that address and nourish all levels of your being (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) is absolutely paramount – especially for the sensitive soul.
The varieties of yoga can be dizzying. Vinyasa, Power, Hatha, Yin, Restorative, Kundalini… Honor your body and your intuition and experiment! There’s a time and season for each of these in my own personal practice and I honor and trust that flow. YouTube provides many resources and simple internet searches can also turn up virtual gems to get started. If you’re a total beginner, having a live teacher in-person for a few classes can be incredibly beneficial, as well as if you’re a total beginner to a new style.
Remember, it’s not about “touching your toes” or “being flexible enough;” it’s about the journey and the discoveries and adventures along the way.
Movement allows us to become fully embodied, noticing your sensorial experience, noticing your bodily needs, feeling your body from the inside out and outside in, observing the subtle interplay between your environment, your thoughts, your emotions, and your physical body. It’s a pathway towards your own spiritual connection.
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