Yoga = union, to unite, liberation
Over the course of the past years I have dabbled with yoga. I've gone to classes, bought VHS tapes & DVD's (that tells you how long I've been dabbling), practiced on my own and have enjoyed yoga in a crowd at Wanderlust. I've said before that for me I walk away feeling strong, flexible and relaxed. But for those of you who have not practiced yoga, please know I also walked away sweaty. Yoga can be difficult and demanding. You need to be focused and aware and before too long you will be moving through your vinyasa (a type of yoga that synchronizes the breath with a continuous flow of poses) quickly. There are many types of yoga, far too many for me to list, but I would like to talk about the overriding relationship between all yoga practices. The word practice is used because it is believed that no one becomes proficient. I asked my sister in law, Susan Dooley, who is a certified yoga instructor for the reason.
"We practice yoga to still the mind. When this is truly achieved, we are then in a state of Samadhi (enlightenment,or awakened.) We see our true self and are one with God (or the divine, or our higher power, or our prana or chi (energy)). Not easy to achieve - that is why we say we “practice yoga” - even if you’ve been practicing for 20 years - or your whole life, we are always learning, growing, becoming stronger mentally, physically and spiritually."
I love this concept. That yoga is not just movement of the body but it is movement of the mind to stillness in an effort to be enlightened.
In addition to these benefits in an article written by Leigh Weingus for mindbodygreen.com there is now evidence that yoga improves your memory.
"As if you needed another reason to roll out your mat and move through a few downward-facing dogs, new research published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that a regular yoga practice may improve memory and protect against cognitive decline in the long term.
For the study, scientists in Brazil took images of the brains of 21 female yoga practitioners over the age of 60. They found that yogis have thicker left prefrontal cortexes, which is the area of the brain responsible for memory and attention. As we age, the left prefrontal cortex is the area that tends to thin out, leading to memory loss and impaired attention."
Adding to this study and the many other studies that are showing the benefits of yoga, there is a program developed by Jon Kabat-Zin, Ph.D. called MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) *"Many of these programs are taught by physicians, nurses, social workers, and psychologists as well as other health professionals who are seeking to reclaim and deepen some of the sacred reciprocity inherent in the doctor-caregiver/patient-client relationship. Their work is based on a need for active partnership in a participatory medicine, one in which patient/clients take on significant responsibility for doing a certain kind of interior work in order to tap into their own deepest inner resources for learning, growing, healing, and transformation." "Through a seamless integration of mindfulness meditation and hatha yoga. MBSR taps into the innate potential for healing that we all have."
It is clear to me that the practice of yoga has unlimited potential to change us both within ourselves and our outer self. It is no longer just for hippies/hipsters/bohemians, it is for all of us. It is a practice of non-judgement. When you walk into a studio it won't matter where you are in your practice, it just matters that you are there to be welcomed and to find your center of peace, to move more freely and with less pain, reduce stress, develop spiritually and enhance your overall health.
Let the critic in your mind go and open yourself up to this valuable practice. And if you have already discovered yoga and it's benefits bravo. I hope you continue to grow and thrive!
Wishing you Grace, Peace & Healthy Living, (Namaste)
*Read more about MBSR and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in the Summer 2017 edition of Yoga International