Myths and benefits of yoga

Five benefits of yoga

Learn something new

Once formal schooling is complete, it can be all to easy to become too busy, too tired, or simply too set in our habits to try something new.  Learning new skills can be invigorating and challenging, and when taught well, yoga can be accessible and satisfying to everyone.  Making some time for yourself is so important to be able to give fully in all the other aspects of your life.  Even one hour per week can help you make space in the body, in the breath and in the mind.

Get in touch with your body

Did you know that the spine has four curves?  The neck (cervical) spine, the mid back (thoracic) spine, the low back (lumbar) spine, and last but certainly not least, the sacral curve (those are the five fused vertebrae that make up your sacrum, and the three to four fused vertebrae that make up your coccyx and tailbone).  Many of us go about our daily lives without giving our bodies much thought, or simply comparing ourselves to others.  Developing a yoga practice can help you see yourself from a different perspective.

Change your perspective

In yoga, we often talk about “on the mat” and “off the mat.”  Changing your perspective on the mat might mean learning to stand on your head and seeing what the room looks like upside down.  Off the mat, it’s more subtle.  The body becomes a tool for meditation: observing your samskara, your habits, during the practice may make it easier to identify similarities in your everyday life.  When the teacher gives an option to either do another round of sun salutations or rest, do I always push myself?  Do I always rest?  Yoga philosophy teaches sthira sukham asanam, balancing effort and ease in order to find samadhi, equilibrium.  Working toward samadhi on the mat is a way to simultaneously work toward it out there in everyday life.

Develop inner calm

Learn simple techniques to help you clear your mind at the end of a busy day and come back to the present moment.  Yoga can offer you many tools to manage stressful or intense encounters both on and off your mat.  The concept of tapas, the willingness to endure intensity for the sake of transformation, applies as equally in Warrior 1 as it does in interpersonal relationships, the workplace or school.

Create tools for living the life you want for yourself.

Have you taken your yoga vitamins today?  There are five yoga vitamins, and they are courage (sraddha), strength (virya), memory (smrti), meditation (samadhi) and contemplation (prajha).  Invest just one hour per week in yoga and learn to use these tools in your practice and in your life.

Four myths about yoga

I need to be flexible to do yoga.

When taught by a knowledgeable instructor, yoga can be accessible to anyone! Yoga philosophy emphasizes the importance of sthira sukham asanam, balancing effort and ease.  One of the benefits of private yoga is individualized attention and a practice tailored to your interests, ability and fitness level.  You can have a satisfying practice whether you can twist yourself into a pretzel or have trouble reaching your toes.

I need to wear certain clothes to do yoga.

As long as you have clothes that you can move comfortably in, it does not matter whether they are “yoga-specific,” made from a special material or whether they are a particular brand.

I need to have a certain body type to do yoga.

You may have heard the Sanskrit word asana in relation to yoga.  Asana means posture or pose, and when we “do” yoga – make particular shapes with our bodies and link breath to movement –  what we are really doing is asana.  You may not know that asana is the third of the eight limbs, or stages, of yoga.  You can read a bit more the eight limbs if you’re curious, but what matters in this context is that the physical postures are only one aspect of  a complete practice.  The goal is not to do the perfect pose or look the cutest in yoga pants.  Through yoga, we use the body as a tool for meditation and quieting the mind.

I've heard yoga has some spiritual aspects and I'm not sure what they are or if I'm comfortable with them.

The physical nature of of the practice is how many people are initially drawn to yoga.  It feels great to build strength and flexibility, and many students experience a deep sense of calm and satisfaction through practicing yoga.  Asana can also be a gateway to learning more about yoga philosophy.  Whether you are interested in learning about the philosophical aspects of yoga, or whether you are simply looking for a way to move your body and feel good, private yoga instruction can be customized to your preference.