American’s tend to be exercise crazy, a large portion of us are body conscious and take pride in how we look. As someone who hits the gym at least three times a week and tends to feel inadequate when I don’t, I understand this craze. It’s not just to look good, it’s to feel good and to be healthy. C’mon, there are a ton of good reasons to exercise! Without realizing it our exercise of choice doesn’t just provide us with exercise, it often becomes a lifestyle. Lifting isn’t as effective without changing other parts of your life and either is running or biking or whatever it is your exercise of choice may be. Diet, mentality and many other life choices are taken into consideration to be better at an exercise. The same goes with yoga and the word yoga itself demonstrates this.
Yoga isn’t just an exercise, it is a way of life. The word yoga translates from sanskrit as “union.” My attempt to take up yoga in India has not yet been about the exercise. I am learning a few basic asanas (poses) everyday, but my first two classes were more about the complete package of yoga. Before every session we start in the savasana pose or total relaxation (I call it the starfish pose). In fact, the Sivananda style I practice goes back to the savasana pose after every asana that we practice. This pose is about practicing deep, correct breathing and relaxing one’s entire body and mind. After the initial relaxation at the beginning of class we chant a prayer together. The prayer is about the Hindu religion, but it’s not about whether or not you believe in the Hindu religion, it is about focusing the mind to a higher, clearer mental state - to focus on the divine. Which takes me to my point. Yoga is a union.
Yoga, for beginners, starts as a union of the body and mind. When learning, one’s goal is simply to become more aware of the self, of the parts of our body, how they move and how they should move. But further practice in yoga should be an attempt to unite the mind and the super conscience (a heightened, higher mental state). The beauty of starting yoga in India is that I have completely escaped the American tendency to just find the next exercise craze and instead, have the chance to experience yoga for all that it is meant to be. Yes, yoga exercise will be amazing for my ridiculously inflexible body, but it will do so much more. In fact, it feels more important to learn how to tap into my mind.
Maybe you don’t have the chance, where you live, to practice yoga as the spiritual exercise it is meant to be and maybe you do, but regardless, I challenge all of the yoga lovers out there and anyone doing any exercise anywhere to not ignore the mental aspect of exercise. Especially, do not ignore the importance of balancing exercise and all of the craziness in your life with relaxation. After all, you deserve it!!
"Health is wealth, Peace of mind is happiness, Yoga shows the way."
Sources- evolutionvt.com (middle photo)
nova-gaia.com (bottom image)