Health & Beauty | March 2009
|Why Practice Yoga? |
Marla Hoover - PVNN
Once again, we have a question with a multitude of answers. Why would one start a practice of yoga? In a recent “Time” magazine article, model turned serious yogini, Christy Turlington was quoted as saying, “Some of my friends simply want to have a yoga butt.” We have all heard the heralding of what yoga can do for the physical body and for many that is enough to get them interested. Nevertheless, what else does yoga do?
|"Words fail to convey the total value of yoga. It has to be experienced." - B.K.S. Iyengar|
In his article “This is Yoga” by Swami Sivananda, he states “Yoga is the science that teaches us the method of uniting the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, of merging the individual will in the Cosmic Will.” Let’s break this down a little. Science? Yoga as a science is an interesting concept, but how can a practice of asanas or postures possibly be a science and what does that have to do with why we should practice it?
Westerners are traditionally treat ailments from the inside out, yoga and its place of origin are known to “go within”. The body is described in metaphors such as; life forces, energy centers, charkas, cores. Eastern ways treat the body and person, western modalities treat the disease. Dr. Carrie Demers, of the Center for Health and Healing at the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the USA in Honesdale, Pa., states, “We send you to different specialists to look at different parts of you. Yoga is more holistic; it’s interested in the integration of body, breath and mind.” Hence, the meaning of the word yoga, coming from the Sanskrit roots “Yui” which means, “to join.” As in to join or a union and balance between the body and the mind. Perhaps it is the “practicing” wherein lays the key. We are attempting to perfect the “balance” in that we are moving toward the union of body and mind. In this attempt to join our body and our mind to “yoga” is where we find the “why.”
Whatever brings or has brought you to your first yoga class is probably not the reason you now have a faithful practice. Whether what first drew you there; a yogini friend, a doctor, physical therapist, curiosity, there was undoubtedly something else that kept you coming back. That is the “why”.
Yoga can improve quality of life. Swami Sivananda makes this declaration,” It bestows on you increased energy, vitality, vigor, longevity and a high standard of health. It will infuse in you a sense of security, a new strength, confidence and self-reliance. Yoga brings a message of hope to the forlorn, joy to the depressed, strength to the weak, and knowledge to the ignorant. It kills all sorts of pain, misery and tribulation. By practice of Yoga you can turn out efficient work within a short space of time, resist temptations, remove disturbing elements from the mind and attain full success in every walk of life. Through the practice of Yoga you can control the subtle forces within the body and command nature. You can unfold all your latent faculties and develop physical, mental, supernatural and divine powers. The whole mystery of Nature will become an open book to you. You can live in the Eternal Light and Glory of God.”
That may seem like a lot to expect from that first class. Thank goodness, we can make it a “practice.” It is the process of yoga that is so intriguing. Like an onion, layer by layer, discoveries are made during the process of a yoga practice. One of the first discoveries is relaxation. This happens during the process of concentrating on the asanas. Your mind focuses on the moment, on what you are moving toward doing, this teaches you something; to let go, to live in just that moment, to relax to release tension. The letting go of tension that is achieved by yoga is gradual resolution. By learning how to let go, we can relax on every level of our body and realize that we always has what we needed; that tension masked our belief in ourselves. Confidences are built with a practice and gradual mastering of an asana. Quietness of mind is discovered through the peace of the act of yoga practice. The desire to learn more is laid at your feet, so is the knowledge that yoga is much vaster than a downward dog or the tree pose. It becomes a way of life. How deep you want to go into that way of life is a personal choice.
Eventually we understand that it is more than a trend practiced by movie and music stars, old hippies, and the fashionistas sporting the latest boho looks or what soccer moms do while their kids are at (their) practice. We learn that yoga at its deepest level shows us how to be perfectly free. It is the means by which we can discover our innate freedom through an extensive process of purification of the mind, by going into deeper levels of yoga living - if that floats your boat. This liberation can lead to a more spiritual understanding of yourself and your connection, your union; to your higher power, your “God-realization”, whoever or whatever you may perceive and discover that to be.
Yoga has been used for thousands of years as the path to liberation or enlightenment. As a way to understanding that when consciousness is free from all mental conditioning neither pleasure nor pain will diminish our inner freedom that our body-mind-God-union is on a higher level, that we have obtained “self-realization”. From a yogic standpoint, there is no higher attainment than this; nor a pursuit more worthy. For then it is we can enhance all situations with wisdom and compassion as to benefit ourselves and others.
Yoga’s traditional goal of pursuing your full potential is a good thing to keep in mind, whether a yoga butt or yoga lifestyle is the reason why you practice yoga. Puerto Vallarta has many options for practicing yoga both in English and Spanish. In the pursuit of “Wellness” future articles will explore our local yoga teachers as well as other modalities and the spiritual community here in general that can keep our body, mind and spirit in good shape and moving forward toward self realization.
Marla Hoover, a practicing yogini for many years, is an international journalist and editor with over 300 published articles from Seattle, San Diego, to Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara. She also works locally as a realtor for G3Mex Group. For more information visit BanderasBayLifestyle.com.