Yoga is my answer to everything. Can’t sleep? Achy joints, back, knees? Practice yoga. Anxious, depressed, fearful, angry, sad, hyper? Yoga. Overweight, overwhelmed, over worked? Yoga, yoga, yoga. After practicing yoga for several years, I became certified to teach. To stop myself from sounding like an evangelical, preaching yoga from the rooftops, I figured I’d lead some classes, and therefore help make it available to those who came to it of their own free will. I am mostly a student though, coming to my mat over and over because it brings me peace and presence in a distracting world. It offers me creative inspiration and some physical fitness too.
Speaking of evangelicals though, one appeared at my front door one day and asked me what I thought should be done about the ‘sad state of the world’.
“Everyone should practice yoga”, was my response. Really. It’s pure magic. Or rather, it invites the magic that is already ours. My visitor promptly left, speechless. I hadn’t meant to surprise or offend. It really is my answer. It’s at least a mindful place from which to view the world.
What else besides yoga can so effectively improve physical and mental health, making thoughtful decisions, a good mood, and deep peace so available? And it’s legal! (Well, mediation can do all these things too, minus the physical part, but it seems more people are likely to try yoga because it’s exercise). Yoga is really a meditation in motion. It’s an exercise practice that gets you out of your head and into your body. It allows and invites your own life force energy to flow through you, healing and rejuvenating, strengthening and calming.
I’ve seen people fall asleep in class and I’ve seen someone break down and cry. That’s because they needed to sleep and cry. Yoga brings about whatever needs to be. My favorite class I ever taught was for overweight students. They were all so serene by the end of class, their natural beauty shining through. I could almost feel the increment of change a single class could bring about. They instinctively knew that if they had the courage and commitment to keep practicing, the balance that yoga brings about would give them a real chance at a healthier weight.
Since physical yoga has boomed in the west, some would say we’ve lost the depth of its origins. We’ve added music, and advertisements of how it will tone and strengthen and shape. We offer yoga in our gyms, machines clanking outside the door of a class. We have expensive classes and expensive clothes . We have Lululemon! Luluemon is magical too, though. If you want to look like you exercise without actually doing it, just try on a pair of Lululemon’s $90 yoga pants. They are amazing. You will look like you do power yoga even if you never get off the couch.
The physical part of yoga will produce benefits that only physical exercise can give. But that is only one aspect of yoga. Patanjali’s eight-fold path describes the whole of yoga, the guidelines for a meaningful and purposeful life. Pantanjali was a very cool guy from the eastern world who recognized our cerebral limitations. But the beauty of yoga is, you don’t have to know about these guidelines to benefit. You don’t need to read about, talk about, or even think about the origins or purpose of yoga to reap the rewards. Higher consciousness or a spiritual path needn’t be your goal. You can come to yoga because you want stronger biceps or to be more flexible. You can come to yoga because you didn’t have anything better to do on a Thursday evening. Even then, you won’t escape its magic. You merely have to show up and breathe. It’s that simple.