Did you know… that yoga is not just a physical exercise program that you might choose in place of other gym offerings like kick boxing, weight lifting, or Zumba?
If you delve in the history and philosophy of yoga, you will find that it is much more than the body-centered approach (Hatha yoga and its spin-offs) that has become immensely popular in our society. Yoga can be traced back 5000 or more years with ancient texts such as the Rig Veda, Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gîtâ, and Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras.
Like the Bible and other sacred texts written so long ago and in a different language, our modern English interpretations vary. I am most familiar with Patanjali’s definition of yoga as an eight-limbed path that can lead to enlightenment. It includes asana (the poses) as only one of the limbs. It can get complicated.
Like many people, I came to yoga in the 1990s mostly out of curiosity. And, like many people, I was interested in yoga for its physical benefits. I had always been involved in some type of exercise or sport, starting in high school with field hockey and volleyball, then continuing through the tennis and racquetball boom. In the late 70s, I worked at the YMCA for three years and have maintained a gym or health club membership ever since. Running, aerobic classes, stationary bikes, weight machines…did them all. For me, yoga’s best offer was a subtle promise to stretch my spine. As a short, small-boned woman whose grandmothers and aunts all had the shrimp-backed, sure signs of osteoporosis, this had great appeal. Any help with concentration and attention would be a bonus. Surprisingly, there were other unexpected benefits.
As yoga gains in popularity, the claims of its benefits are numerous, ranging from the technically medical to the wildly metaphysical. At times it seems like a cure-all, which can also make it appear over-rated and perhaps bogus.
Yoga is a both a weight-bearing and stretching exercise so it is expected that it will improve your strength and flexibility. From my own practice and the comments from my colleagues and students, I’ve decided that there are three simple yet wonderful things that are particular to yoga and can be widely achieved.