What's The Deal With Yoga?
We’ve heard it a million times… Yoga is good for you. But how? Why? Is it good for me too? Even If I can’t reach my toes?? If I thought of my grocery shopping list that time I tried to meditate?
Ok, let’s go through this one step at a time, shall we?
Long story short: yes yoga is good for you.
Fine, I guess you might want some extra explanation, let’s dig into this - and for those who need some science background, we’ll satisfy your brains too.
The briefest description of what Yoga is: a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. There’s 8 limbs in yoga, and only 1 is about the poses (or asanas, in sanskrit), and another one is dedicated to breathing (Pranayama, which would translate to life force). So evidently, what has become more popular in the West is quite biased, but that’s a whole other story.
One of the intentions of this practice is to bring balance to body and mind, as this leads to relaxation and awareness. There’s a myriad of poses and breathings to help you walk towards this calmness, and believe me, you’ll feel it quickly and will come back for more!
Also, bear in mind that, just as in any other discipline, practice makes perfect. Finding time in your schedule to create a steady practice will allow it to grow it in you, and you into it (too much? Can you tell I fell for it a long time ago?). C’mon, I mean you’ll see the evolution in your body and will have a more peaceful mood sooner than you expect. There’s a disclaimer here: by that I don’t mean that you’ll be single-handstanding and juggling with your feet while your mind is beyond all enlightenment. We all have a starting point, and that’s where we grow from, and you can take it as far as you want, as long as you have the will to do it. Just like abs don’t magically appear after 2 series reps, right? No worries, I won’t use cliches or motivational quotes along the lines of “The amount of effort you put in is the amount of results you end up with”. Oopsie.
So how does this ethereal wellness and mindfulness actually works on us, simple humans? Here’s a bunch o’things that can occur if you practice yoga regularly:
Increased bone density, due to the muscular work against gravity.
Reduced inflammation (that’s what detox is about!) and improved levels of bio-markers
Reduced cortisol, therefore lowers stress and helps relieve symptoms of depression
It improves posture
Helps to improve oxygen absorption
And many more, but I wanna talk about it at a different time, and keep your interest! Marketing, my friends!
Here’s the thing, though. Westerners try to isolate and dissect everything to its smallest part, and as much as this is needed, we can’t forget to step back to [cliche alert!] look at the bigger picture. Take for instance the cortisol, by being reduced, you will feel an improvement that you might even call “general”. As “feeling happier” has many different markers physically and emotionally - you stand taller, are in a better mood, and many more effects that might be difficult to list in a reductionist way.
Also, even though yoga has been going on for centuries in India, it traveled to the West just recently in the last 45 years or so, science hasn’t had much time (or interest) to study it thoroughly.
We have listed some of the benefits... Now what? Which type of yoga should you choose?? Don’t stress here. I’m gonna go ahead and say that if you tried yoga once and didn’t feel any inner peace or even the opposite, it could be because you tried a type of yoga that’s not for you at the moment. Just as a very short guideline, Hatha is the source of modern yoga, like Ashtanga, which is physically quite demanding, or Vinyasa, characterized by moving more fluidly from one pose to another. I totally encourage you to try different stuff and see what works for you. You will be surprised to see what suits your body (and, ahem, soul), even during different parts of the day.
Now let’s address the elephant in the room. Ego. Oh hi there. We’ve all experienced it, in yoga or any other activity, that moment of “dammit-why-can’t-I-do-this-and-this-person-next-to-me-is-so-annoyingly-good-at-it”. I’d recommend to shake these thoughts off and pay attention to the words and demos your instructor has to offer. Being natural at something is rare, and it might work for the first lesson, but you gotta keep working on it to see that progress and growth, so don’t worry if you feel self-conscious. Also, do NOT be shy to join a beginners class at first! I actually think that all yogis should attend one weekly, just as a reminder of how to do the essentials. I started without knowing how to do literally anything, around 10 years ago, and still today I have revelations on how to do and adjust basic poses.
Oh, and if you have any special physical or mental condition… yoga has something to offer. It is amazing just how specifically you can target different needs with breathing and poses. Just be open to it, share any important information regarding your health, injuries etc. you might have with your instructor and physician, and remember that you’ll have to show up on the mat consistently to enjoy the relief you seek.
One pro tip no one asked for! I’ve mentioned that, and I’ll do it one more time: yoga goes beyond the poses. It even goes beyond breathing and meditating. If you stay curious and open, you might discover a whole new world. Do you trust me? (Hope you’re getting the Disney reference here!). What I mean by that is that you don’t need to live alone on a mountain wearing a turban to find peace, we need you here, so take care of your life here with yoga (also with what you eat, how you respond to imbalances in your life…) it is an effective way to lead a more stable, harmonious existence right here. And that’s pretty cool.
Some links you might find interesting:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-benefits-of-yoga#section11 (this one has a bunch of links to scientific studies)