The Mind in Your Muscle
Yoga is essentially a practice for the mind, which in these times of recovery is needed more than ever to bring back some lightness into both body and mind.
Recently, our minds have been challenged to adapt to what has unfolded outside of our control, and many of us have experienced some loss on various levels. If anyone asked me for something to do to help get back on track after lockdown, I would immediately say from personal experience, yoga!
Yoga is a mental practice associated with doing physical exercises called asana. Asana practice, although important, is only one of the eight components or limbs of yoga according to the ancient text The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yoga philosophy explains the root cause of our suffering as confusing the impermanent with the permanent. The body is seen as the gateway to focussing and clarifying our minds, which are usually fogged with conflicting thoughts, personal fears, and misunderstanding.
Mind is the Mover
Modern science confirms the mind is the mover. How we relate to and react to things through our senses as life unfolds is governed by the nervous system. We create patterns and habits of being that we are not even aware of. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali shows the ancients understood this too, and can even be considered an ancient treatise of the psyche.
Movement, with focus on breathing, is a way for us to connect with ourselves and bring the unconscious to the surface so we can start to understand what lies behind our patterns and responses and start working on changing ourselves and how our destinies.
Building More than Muscle
Building strength and stamina, therefore, leads to empowerment on more than a physical level. When you practice yoga asana the physical benefits are endless; building muscles, lower body-fat percentage, stronger bones, greater stability and mobility, increased longevity, enhanced joint protection, fewer injuries, resilient tendons, ligaments and fascia.
What we need to remind ourselves of is how our yoga practice is creating more confidence, improved mood, emotional balance and self-awareness and clarity in choices. Moving from a heaviness of body and mind to literally and figuratively, a lighter sense of being.
By Natasha Gunn, lead teacher at Hot Yoga Eindhoven and Art Awake Yoga.