Yoga is an entire science of living which works on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. The movement towards living yoga is one which brings back the depth to the practice, helping us navigate our relationships with the world around us, offering tools that promote mindfulness and present moment awareness, and ultimately paving the way to more joyful living.
Here are 5 reasons to get started:
1. You become what you repeat.
While it’s unfortunate that there is a misconception, particularly in the Western world about yoga as a purely physical practice – I do still believe that the growing number of people rolling out their yoga mats is something to be celebrated. I like to think of yoga asana, or the postures as the gateway drug. We start with the physical then learn to integrate our energetic body through conscious breathing until eventually our mind settles into deeper states of concentration. For this reason, BKS Iyengar refers to the body as the “vehicle to the soul”. In the same way that stretching and deep breathing create space in the body, meditation helps ease the mind by creating a sense of inner spaciousness. We learn to simply observe as feelings of stress, anxiety and fear arise before reacting. This means we have the control to choose how to respond. Rather than blowing up when things go awry, we can shift gears into a more calm, relaxed state. Thanks to neuroplasticity, it’s possible through regular practice to actually rewire our brain into these positive thought patterns even outside of our practice. Or to put it simply, we become them.
2. Wake up!
In between a series of long-held, intense balancing postures in class the other day, my teacher, Shy brought us into a standing position where we could rest for a few breaths with the stability of our two feet grounded on the floor. “If you’re not enjoying this right now,” he paused, “Wake up!” I laughed out loud… guilty. My mind and body were already agonizing in the posture coming next. This is a strong reflection on the way many of us live our lives – hung up on the past or stressing about the future. Yoga snaps us into the present so we can make the most of every moment. After all, the only time we are guaranteed is right now.
3. Your vibe attracts your tribe.
Cultivating positive energy through yoga and mindfulness allows our practice to be of service to others. It’s contagious. Buddhists recognize the Sangha, or community as one of the Three Gems alongside the Buddha, the teacher and the Dharma, the teachings, all of which further us along our spiritual path. This support network is even more valuable as advancements of the modern world have made it easier to isolate and disconnect from the world around us. Instead, we can utilize the online yoga community to increase our Sangha to a global scale, allowing for cross-cultural connections and an overwhelming amount of online resources for sharing knowledge.
4. Acceptance: No mud, no lotus.
Yoga does not promise to fix us; it’s a practice of acceptance. Similar to the way the lotus flower can only emerge from the muddy floor of the pond, yoga brings awareness to the difficult areas of our life and trains us to accept them so we can grow from them. We become grateful for even the most challenging situations life throws our way. Imagine that. It is through this process that we begin to experience our true nature, the union of all aspects of the self and the world around us.
5. For the benefit of all beings.
You don’t have to be an activist or a yoga teacher for your work to be of service to others. Living yoga and mindfulness practices allow us to go out into the world acting from a place of love, compassion and understanding. In many cases, simply not contributing to violence or hate is enough. It is only through the wisdom gained from our own experience that we can start to change the world around us.
Mary’s passion for yoga has taken her across the world from the U.S. to Southeast Asia & India where she leads retreats, private lessons and co-leads 200-Hr Teacher Training. You can visit her website for more details on where she will be next.