Most yogi’s will tell you there is something about yoga that goes beyond the benefits of movement and exercise. Whether we can put our finger on it or not, most people experience something deeper and more impactful during a yoga practice than when lifting weights at the gym.
Traditional yoga is divided into 8 limbs which are essentially steps to take to reach what the ancient yogis called enlightenment. The physical poses we are all familiar with are just one of those limbs, and truthfully not even the most important one.(1)
The movements we associate with yoga are just one piece of a bigger picture.
What Does Yoga Do?
To say modern life is busy may sound like an understatement. It’s certainly an oversimplification of what can be a complex blend of family needs, work, extracurriculars and Netflix binges. We have a lot of things to do in our day to day, and usually not much time left over for stillness.
Yoga provides the opportunity to slow down. For many of us that can be a radical act. During the time we are on your mat, the only goal is to let all other things in life fade to the background and allow ourselves to be present in the moment.
This may be one of the few times we devote to being fully mindful and present. The feeling of letting everything else go can be empowering and liberating.
If one or more of these areas is out of balance or causing stress, then feelings of wellness can easily slip away.
Yoga Is Deep Mindfulness
Before mindfulness was a buzzword in our culture, it was a staple of what it meant to do yoga.
Being fully present in the practice means to focus all our attention on the feel of the breath or the sensation of the big toe. The shapes and movement are intended to draw us more fully into our physical experience, and from there to even deeper aspects of ourselves that are often hard to sense in the midst of our busy lives.
The Body Is Our Way In
Without practice, it can be very difficult to sit in meditation or be still and quiet with our thoughts. Yet in order to experience true wellness in our whole being, that is exactly what we need.
Yoga invites us to start where we are most familiar: the body where we live.
It is much easier to be mindful of our body than our mind or spirit. Starting with the movement of our physical self and being mindful of the sensations of the body, we build the skills of focus that will allow us to extend mindfulness to other areas of our lives.
Yoga Can Be Powerful
But you don’t even need to think about it that way. If all you do is show up for the physical practice that’s really all you need. The mindfulness you build as you move and breathe will flow over into other aspects of your health and well-being.
What makes yoga so powerful is that even if all you think you are doing is moving your body, the other parts of your life are moving right along with you.