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.
Help! The public sphere is being flooded with TV screens that are drowning out everything else. They show up everywhere, obtrusive and unavoidable.
They demand attention; trying to block them out and do something else can be mentally exhausting. Whether they are large or small, whether they broadcast a public station or a closed circuit network, their continuous distraction of moving images and background noise discourages people from interacting, reading, writing, or just sitting quietly and thinking. I really dislike it. Skip the life preserver and someone please throw me a remote!
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.
Working in my yard this weekend, pulling weeds and mulching the flower beds, I found myself humming this old folk song “Yellow is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair”. Not because my love’s hair is blonde in the morning (it is salt-and-pepper all the time), but because EVERYTHING was yellow, dusted with a thick coat of what my botanist friend calls tree sperm.
Pine pollen — we all more or less hate it. Everything looks dull. It clings to all surfaces; cars seem to be a particular magnet. With a small gust of wind, you can see it billowing in sulfurous clouds of gold. Despite our general annoyance — guess what? Pine pollen is supposed to be good for you! Seriously.
New year, new you!! Ah… if it was only that easy. New year resolutions are a common way to set an intention and work toward it….at least for a while. My friend John recently posted “I’m opening a gym called ‘Resolutions.’ It will have exercise equipment in it for the first two weeks and then it turns into a bar for the rest of the year.” It is funny because it rings true. Statistics vary but most show that a very small percent actually fully achieve their goals and many quit trying within a month or two. I have often been among this group.