Ever wonder why people are ecstatic over yoga or why people seem to change their entire lifestyle because they started a yoga practice?
Yoga is transformational, and it works by using asana (postures), focused concentration, and pranayama (breathing techniques) to connect the body to the mind, and the mind to the soul. The word “yoga” literally translates to “union” or “yoke” and represents the merging unity of one’s will and higher self (the divine).
But how does this truly work? How can a person experience transformation in his or her life through a yoga practice?
The most basic “limb,” or aspect of yoga, used in the West is the asana practice. The asanas are postures that move us through a yoga class. They are shapes we make with our bodies that you probably see all over social media and the web.
We are visual creatures, and most humans feel comfortable working on themselves physically, first, because the physical is tangible and visible. We can see the results yoga has on our bodies, and we feel those results as we begin to loosen up and experience physical strength and greater ease. The asana practice enables us to feel that there is something animating our physical form.
The physical practice alone is transformational, and it is this aspect of yoga that allows us to become open to the rest of the magic yoga has for us.
From the moment you step onto your yoga mat, you have the opportunity to be and check in with yourself—something many people seldom (or never) do.
In our society, we often find ourselves in “survival mode.” Multitasking feels “normal,” and we attune our attention almost automatically to the perpetual chatter playing like a broken record in our heads—it just never seems to stop!
Yoga teaches us to pause. It teaches us the art of surrender. Through its meditative aspects, yoga enables us to watch our minds think, to realize we are more than the mind and its thoughts. When we sit back and watch the mind generate thoughts, we discover who we really are.
The mind and the body are intimately connected, and it is through the breath that we begin to understand this truth firsthand. The pranayama (breath) practice bridges the gap between body and consciousness, allowing us to register both our physical and mental states. Pranayama is our life force.
Human beings are more than just bodies. A body without the breath has no consciousness, and a body without consciousness or the ability to think would be of little use. It’s the breath that gives the body life. Inhalation becomes impossible without exhalation and vice versa. When we understand how important the breath is to our existence, we can direct the breath to channel energy that serves our highest selves and the highest good. The breath is the link between our mind and body, allowing synergetic coordination of our thinking selves (mind) and feeling and doing selves (body).
Yoga offers a direct path to experiencing this breath awareness, which in turn opens the door to a world of clarity, grace, and union, empowerment, compassion, patience, and love.
Yoga gives us freedom—freedom from meaningless suffering. Yoga brings us back to our natural state, a state of intuition, mindfulness, and vitality. Yoga is the joining of the separate self with the universal self. It is medicine that heals us from the inside out and encourages us to realize that we are not our thoughts, anxieties, or depression. Yoga brings us a sense of wholeness, bliss, and pure love, as well as a deep connection to our higher power—whatever that may be for you.
As you move consciously, breathe, and sweat, you shed your “fake self” and begin to discover your “true self” as you experience the return to your natural state of being—the highest you.
In the words of my very special teacher, Mick Barnes, “Yoga equals change. Without humility, there can be no transformation. Getting on the mat each and every day allows that change to happen. The asana is our playground. The teacher the disturbing force. Through practice, we achieve mental and emotional stability. Equanimity.”
Author: Nichole Ferro
Image: Kino MacGregor/Instagram
Editor: Travis May