Yoga

What is yoga to me?

I was recently asked the following questions by my niece for a university assignment she was doing, I thought I’d share my answer with you:

1. what does yoga mean to you? To me, yoga is a lifestyle choice, it is a holistic approach to physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Because I am a yoga teacher I guess I possibly see more in yoga than your average yoga goer but I think more and more people are starting to realise that yoga is much more than a stretch and relax class at the gym.

2. why do you participate in yoga? I keep doing yoga because every time I do I feel even better than I did before. Since I started taking yoga seriously and doing the physical yoga (asana = poses, hatha yoga = the physical limb of the eight limbs of yoga) regularly my health has improved, I don’t need to diet anymore and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

3. do you enjoy yoga and what do you believe the benefits are? I love yoga! I enjoy being ‘on the mat’ but I also really enjoy reading about the philosophy and psychology of the yoga texts (e.g. The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita). The reason I believe in the following benefits of yoga is because these are the ones I have experienced myself: improved strength and fitness, improved immune function, improved digestion, balanced endocrine system (hormones), better sleep, calmer, happier, reduced stress, ability to cope better overall.

4. how often do you participate in yoga? I’m ‘on the mat’ 8-10 times a week (6-8 classes I teach + 1-2 hours of my own practice), but if you understand yoga as a lifestyle/way of life, then I participate in yoga 24/7.

5. how would you feel if you were no longer able to participate in yoga? Referring to the physical ‘on the mat’ yoga, well I’d have to be quadriplegic to be unable to do any of that and there’s lots of reasons why I’d feel devastated if it came to that! But then I guess if that happened it would force me to focus on the other aspects of yoga (philosophical and spiritual). I can’t think of a reason other than death that would prevent me from being a yogi in my heart and mind; and in that case I guess what I would be feeling is a moot point! haha

6. would you describe yoga as being; a commitment, in your free time, paid or unpaid, necessary? Definitely a commitment, but in the positive sense in that I’m committed to my health and wellbeing, for my own sake and the people I love.

7. any other useful information you would like to say about yoga. I think one of the most important things for people new to yoga to know at this time is that there are so many styles of yoga out there now. There’s gym based yoga like power yoga and hot yoga that are focused almost entirely on physical fitness. The media are suggesting that lots of people are getting hurt doing these strong styles of yoga with teachers who don’t understand that traditional yoga is actually a form of therapy not a western style exercise program. It’s really important that you try a few different styles of yoga when you start out so that you find the style that is right for you at that time in your life – right for your body in terms of strength fitness and any illness or injury you might have but also right for your mind in that you feel good about yourself and life in general when you walk out of the class , you enjoyed it and you really want to do it again soon – if you don’t feel like that at the end of your class than you haven’t found the right style, class or teacher for you ( there’s a sanskrit term – viniyoga that covers this aspect really well if you want to look it up).

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