How Yoga Works
Well, the truth is, we really don't know just how yoga works. But it does. It changes the body; it calms the mind; it opens the heart. For thousands of years, yoga has been a metaphysical methodology that has literally transformed the human heart and mind. Its current popularity is a sign that the inhabitants of our times and our culture are hungry for change. And change, as we are told over and over, has to begin within each one of us personally before it can emerge as change in the way we conduct business on this earth. This practice of moving mindfully and breathing deeply has proven to support physical, mental, and emotional changes in those who take up the practice. I would like to invite you to try it. Would you? Would you come and practice with me?
I teach astanga yoga every Sunday and Monday at College Park Yoga, and I practice yoga there several times a week. I invite you to come and see what this popular practice is all about. Why is it so appealing?
Here's why: In a recent article in the Huffington Post ("Why Your Brain Loves Yoga"), Gabriel Axel says "Yoga is a scientific technology that harnesses the innate capability of the body as a vehicle for transformation. It is a technology, a human art, purposefully crafted to serve as a tool for maximizing the health and potential of the human being."
Let's unpack those two sentences just a bit.
First of all, it is a vehicle for transformation. Check out the scientific literature and you will find studies replete with stories of physical and emotional transformation resulting from yoga practice.* And do your own research. Go to any yoga studio and survey the yogis who come out of a yoga practice. Ask them, Why do you do this? What has it meant to you? How are you changed by this practice? You will hear story after story of people who have given themselves over to a regular asana practice (the postures) that includes focusing the attention and deepening the breath. And in the process they feel better, stronger, less fatigued, more focused, calmer, and more emotionally grounded, among many other qualities. The stories are varied; the results are consistent. The practice can lead to some serious transformation in the way you feel as well as the way you think about life and its possibilities.
Many people come to yoga for the physical benefits it affords. The third limb of the eight limbs of astanga yoga is asana, the postures. And many people, me included, are drawn to yoga for the sequence of physical postures that make up the practice. And yes, practicing the sequence of postures is an effective technology for cultivating good health and a strong and agile body.
But notice, Axel also refers to yoga as a "human art," and I believe this is the core of yoga's appeal. It is for sure a technology that can transform the body. But it is also an art, a practice of mind and spirit, that leads us to deeper meaning and potential in our lives. And this is what I think every one of us seeks, even when we don't know what we are seeking. All of us want to live full, happy, meaningful lives. We want to understand why we are here on this tiny earth, what we are to do, how we are to live harmoniously within ourselves and with others on the planet. These are the Big Questions that under-gird our every decision, our every move, our every yearning.
Once we start asking the Big Questions, we are forced to examine how we craft our days: how we spend our time; where we place our efforts; how we cultivate our attitudes. Yoga is one practice that can help each of us craft better days, and ultimately better lives. It is much more than an exercise. Axel says yoga starts as a "process of harnessing the brain's capacities and naturally evolves into the art of living well."
And that's what we're all about here at LifeArt Studio. So today, I invite you to take a yoga class. Commit to it for 30 days; stick with it, even if it's really challenging to fit into your busy schedule. Forget about all those flexible bodies you see on the covers of Yoga Journal. Yoga is NOT about being flexible. It's about bringing your body and your breath into conscious alignment for the purpose of becoming fully present in the moment. That's it. That's doable. One breath at a time. And that is transformative. See if you don't begin to notice subtle shifts in mind and body. It is a human art that will quietly, slowly, and persistently lead you to the next best version of yourself.
So let me ask again, would you come practice with me? I'd love to meet you on the mat at College Park Yoga. Check my calendar for dates, times, and more info.
*For more information on the amazing benefits of yoga, see another essay from Huffington Post ("Your Body on Yoga").