What is Yoga?... It’s More Than Just Stretching
Updated: Aug 6, 2021
Yoga is an ancient physical and spiritual practice consisting of physical poses, breathing, meditations and philosophy used to align the mind with the body. The word yoga means to "yoke" or to "unite". The physical yoga postures "asanas" are linked with the breath "pranayama" and this allows the mind to focus on the body and stay present. Staying in the present moment allows the mind chatter to soothe and the nervous system to regulate, in turn the body can begin to release emotions and heal physically and emotionally.
The asanas are designed to align the entire musculoskeletal system and build strength, flexibility, balance and improve posture while potentially healing chronic pain and injuries. Practicing the asanas should feel good to the body and should not be forced to create a specific shape. The anatomy, age and health history will influence how a particular asana will look between students.
Ujjayi Pranayama breath is performed by creating a soft sound in the back of the throat as you inhale and exhale out of your nose- this warms the air before entering the upper respiratory system and heats the internal body. The sound is compared to making a "haaaa" sound and is also called "oceans breath". This technique detoxifies and purifies the body while improving the immune system, lung and heart function and the nervous system.
Meditation focuses the mind and improves concentration on and off the mat. Training the mind to focus and stay present on a particular activity, image or object can calm our emotions and create mental stability. In yoga, we focus on the breath as a point of concentration over and over until it becomes second nature. This takes patience and consistency- don't be hard on yourself or judge yourself for "not being good at meditation".
Yoga carries many physical and emotional health benefits and is always being recommended by doctors and health professionals. Practicing yoga regularly can open the door to a new way of life.