HEALTH AND WELLNESS: YOGA
WORDS & IMAGES: KIMORA BROCK
I hope all is well and that you are enjoying your summer freedom. In my introductory post, I mentioned that at the beginning of my journey toward health and wellness, I joined a support group as a last resort option to start feeling better. There is a wonderful reason why we ended each class with a yoga practice. Long story short, it is because yoga is both directly and indirectly a form of self care. Even though I was familiar with the superficial physical benefits of yoga, and had even practiced it before, I was unaware of the level at which yoga transforms your mental state through the means of a physical practice. Lesson one of today’s post: Everything is connected.
Yes, there are people who only use yoga for the physical gain of flexibility, and yes, everyone in my summer yoga class is 50+ except me, but the truth is that yoga is a philosophy and lifestyle that can be practiced by anyone, does not conflict with any faith or religion, and can bring great knowledge, strength, and peace even with the smallest amount of effort.
In order to understand the science of yoga, there are two truths that need to be understood deep within yourself. Firstly, there is a definite mind-body-spirit connection, and secondly, the physical body is simply a vessel for your soul (spirit).
The science of yoga is said to date back to prehistoric times and was developed by Indian sages to cure disease, old age, pain and depression. According to the min principles of yoga, the goal of life is “to achieve, while still alive, a state free from death, pain, sorrow, old age, disease and rebirth.” Instead of solely using medication to treat the symptoms of disease as is typically done in the western philosophy of medicine, yoga aims to remove the root cause of the disease by returning the patient to a "natural manner of living". This “natural manner of living” includes a nutrient-dense diet, the practice of relaxation, and breath.
Centuries of yogic research has concluded that the expression of the spirit increases in proportion to the development of the body and mind in which it is encased. Therefore, yoga prescribes exercises derived from stretching, relaxation, deep breathing, and increasing circulation and concentration. By learning to control the body, we can easily train the mind, and it is after one learns how to concentrate the mind, that one discovers all of its hidden facets and awakens the inner spirituality. As Drake says, “ ALL I GOTTA DO IS PUT MY MIND TO THIS SH!T.”
After my support group ended, I stopped practicing yoga daily. Mostly it was because I felt better but also because I was running on the team again and I felt like I was meeting my quota for physical exercise. I was under the impression that it was the release of endorphins that I was missing from physical exercise alone that caused me to struggle with depression. I found this to not necessarily to be true. Although the practice of yoga releases those feel-good endorphins, it also gives us so much more. With diligent practice, yoga keep the arteries and muscles elastic, the joints mobile, brings our emotions under control, keeps our internal glands in tip-top shape, and develops proper body alignment.
I relate being a yogi to being an athlete. Every day at practice, you push your body to its limit (without crossing the line) and thereby increase your efficiency for the less strenuous tasks you have to do throughout the day. In track and field, there is no way you can run an 800 meter race without practicing first. It is only with training that you develop increased confidence, coordination, a better mindset, and ultimately a better performance.
All of the twisting and stretching in yoga is critical to maintaining elasticity within the body. And as you go through the practice, you learn about yourself. You can take that information, in turn, to create even more beneficial experiences in your life.
My homework for you this week is to try out a yoga class. Embrace that there might be moments of physical discomfort or uncertainty; accept that you are in a state of deep learning about your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self. And just so you know what the teacher is talking about when you go to your first class, here are my top five key words.
- Pranayama--breathing exercises
- Prana--life force/ breath energy
Love and light,