So why do yoga? After thousands of years this tradition from India has now spread worldwide and is practiced by people of all ages, cultures and religions. Maybe your friend suddenly seems to love to wake up early to do yoga positions with funny sounding names. But for some reason she always returns with a blissful smile… This might make you wonder: what’s up with yoga?
Sure; yoga makes us stronger, more flexible and stand up taller. But there are many more clear benefits of yoga for the health of our body and ultimately our mind.
Some of the physical benefits of yoga include: better posture, stronger, more flexible, less injuries, less stress-related problems like tensions in body, headaches and high blood pressure, better use of breath, more energy...
Some of the mental benefits of yoga: awareness, calmness, focus, freedom from habitual patterns, confidence, happiness...
There are many different ways to practice yoga, both in in a yoga class or in daily life. Literally, ‘Yoga’ means ‘Union’, already showing that there is a lot more to it than simply exercise. It can be a workout or just relaxing, but yoga always works on greater self understanding and well-being. Yoga balances our awareness of body and mind and leaves us de-stressed, rejuvenated and recharged. It can lead to a profound inner peace and a deep appreciation of all life.
So how does practicing yoga do this; how does yoga work?
In yoga we use the poses and movements of our body to increase our awareness of the totality of body and mind. In other words: we don’t just move; we are constantly very aware of every single movement. And even of every reaction in our mind to that movement.
For most of us, keeping this focus is a challenge in the beginning. That’s why we patiently train our mind by using our breath as our guide. As long as you know each breath taking place, you are aware of this moment.
From this greater awareness follows greater understanding of our self and our lives. Our new consciousness gives us new freedom in our everyday existence. Instead of being stuck in old habits, physical and mental, we can react more freely to whatever new situation life brings.
We also start to realize that everything that exists is connected. Not just our body with our mind, but anything with everything. In this way, the awareness of yoga helps us to re-connect, 're-unite', with the whole world around us. With the complete reality starting in this very moment. It can transform ourselves and our lives in ways we never imagined.
There are many many more things that can be said about yoga. But ultimately, by just talking about it you’ll never really know the answer to ‘why do yoga?’. Yoga is not a theoretic teaching but a personal practical experience: to really know what it’s all about, you simply have to do it...
Or read more about the benefits of yoga on Yoga Journal
“Do your practice and all is coming” Pattabhi Jois, founder Ashtanga Yoga