The hippies knew it first – now we understand the benefits too
So many new students say to me “I’ve always wanted to try yoga”. No longer the reserve of “hippies and weirdos”, it’s definitely become a mainstream understanding that yoga is beneficial for us in so many ways. But what does yoga have to offer, why is it so beneficial?
I could write about the physical benefits, increased flexibility, developing bone strength, great for the vital systems: cardiovascular, endocrine, lymphatic, respiratory. But, I’d like to focus on the more subtle effects.
We are the star performer in the story of our lives, and most of our time is consumed ruminating over this story in our head and of course, acting it out. This is commonly known as our autobiographical narrative. It consists of what happened to us in the past and what might happen to us in the future. It is all consuming for most of us. Our story is so interesting, so compelling. But the truth is that the future is a fantasy, we don’t know what will happen in the future. And, the past is over, we can change it not! And yet, this is what occupies much of our time, it is irresistible to us and we get stuck in it, all consumed by our star performance, and lose perspective.
In yoga we come into our bodies, we move out of concepts and into sensations. This allows us time to listen to the intelligence in other parts of our being, instead of just in our heads. It puts us in touch with something that is bigger than our little story.
Yoga uses the breath as a key tool. The breath is our pathway back to the present. The breath IS happening here and now! Moving with our breath further helps us to focus our attention in the present moment. If we also add attention to the sensations in our body as we move, we have even more to connect us to what IS actually happening. If we encourage our breath to become longer, smoother and steadier, this will bring a similar effect to the mind. The physical movements of yoga are a moving meditation.
There is more to yoga than movement though. Central to the system of yoga is the understanding that we are multi-dimensional beings. We are not just physical bodies but have other layers; energetic, emotional, mental and the body of our heart or joy. The system of yoga offers us an opportunity to scan across all of these layers, check in with them, recognise them, and understand ourselves as more than just the story that continually runs in our head. We come to know ourselves as something more than our story.
Yoga is an opportunity for self-awareness and self-care. It is time when we turn our attention to things beyond words and concepts, away from that compelling story that we star in, to embrace the mystery of life that we all spring from. We can put down our story for a while and explore what else is going on in the other dimensions of our being to bring some integration and wholeness. We can come to know that we are supported by the vastness of this incredible Universe, know ourselves not just as a wave, but as a part of the ocean. We can touch our interconnectedness with all of life. We can come to know that we are one.
The intelligence that is all around us and within us will restore us to balance if we take the time to tune in, and practice this tuning with consistency. So much more than movement, a way to tune in and find our pathway to our true nature. Back to reality, the here and now.
We can let go of wanting to attain anything, strive for anything and start recognising habits that no longer serve us, that when removed, reveal our true essence.
It’s a journey, maybe an endless journey, but one well worth taking, and what better time to start than now.
There is indeed – no time like the present.