If you've been aware of yoga for awhile, then you know it can be anything from a restorative 90 minute nap to a sweaty Bikram workout and everything in between. Yoga has become quite the popular "exercise" around the world with about 2 billion (yes, billion) people practicing regularly. With that many people stepping onto their mats daily, there has to be some truth to the power of incorporating a yoga practice into your life. Right?!
So, what's the big secret about yoga? Why has it become a huge global sensation, with studios popping up by the dozens in any given neighborhood, destination yoga retreats becoming popular vacation options, and healthcare providers prescribing it to their patients?
The short answer...it works! Yoga makes us feel better on so many levels that even the Western medical world is admitting major health benefits for people with many different dis-ease states.
People suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and a host of other ailments are achieving positive outcomes in managing their illnesses, and in some cases, are seeing near miraculous results. However, you don't have to be sick to get benefits from yoga.
This practice, brought to us from the sadhus of Ancient India
has stood the test of time (thousands of years) because of its efficacy. Originally established to help these holy men sit for hours in meditation, yoga offered flexibility not only of the body, but of the mind. It also gave them strength and endurance for long periods of stillness.
Today, many people would consider yoga to be an exercise to help them achieve a toned and healthy body. Others use the practice to relax or heal from illness or injury. Yet, others practice for the benefits of a focused mind and balanced emotions.
Yoga works because it connects us to ourselves so that we can connect with the world around us...and ultimately, to the world within us. The body/mind/spirit connection is a popular concept in the mindfulness world. Spirit, or inspire, refers to our breath, which connects body and mind. All three are synergistic in that they all affect each other.
Let's try a little experiment.
Sit comfortably and focus on your breath. Don't try to change it, just recognize your rhythmic breathing for 10-15 seconds. Notice how comfortable and present you feel when your breath is flowing smoothly.
Now, breathe in and hold your breath for a few seconds. (Note: Check with your doctor before doing this exercise if you are experiencing any health challenges.)
When you feel ready to exhale, release your breath and notice any physiological changes. Is your heart beating faster? Did you tense any parts of your face or body? How about your mind? Are you aware of any agitation, or have your thoughts intensified?
To see just how powerful the mind/body/spirit connection is, think about a time when you went through a struggle in your life. Recount the difficulty or the sadness and now notice your breath and the sensations in your body. It's quite possible that you held your breath or it became shallow. Perhaps you realized you had clenched your jaw or you had made a fist.
Finally, let yourself lay in savasana, or walk outside to feel a pleasant breeze caress your face, or take a wiff of a beautiful flower. As you do this, become aware of how the physical sensations of the body have now regulated your breath and calmed your thoughts.
This simple exercise shows clearly how our thoughts, emotions, and physical body cannot be separated from one another as long as we are alive. The reason why yoga works is its balancing effect on our mind/body/spirit connection. Let this powerful tool bring greater awareness and health to your life. It works!