If you can breathe you can do yoga. That’s the beauty of this ancient form of physical, mental and spiritual practice. From infants to the elderly yoga has calmed the mind, honed the spirit and toned the body for over 5000 years.
Over the last decade yoga has become hugely popular blossoming into a multi-billion dollar industry. According to The Yoga Journal an estimated 20 million Americans practice yoga, 82 percent of them women. So what does yoga offer us in the modern age that has made it so sought after? Patanjali, the ancient Indian sage who wrote The Yoga Sutras about 2000 years ago, counseled his readers to “still the fluctuations of the mind.” Perhaps that’s an insight into why we are flocking to yoga studios in the 21st century. In this new age of technology we’re constantly bombarded with information, our phones seem to have become an extension of our bodies, our over stimulated and multitasking minds are in desperate need of being stilled. A thoughtful yoga class will not only calm the mind but relax the body and lift the spirits. It’s almost as if Patanjali were speaking directly to us today.
Never before have there been so many styles, forms and intensities of yoga available. Almost all are offered here on my doorstep in the Hudson Valley. Nyack, New York, the town where I live, has an important history in the yoga world, being the home to America’s first Yogi, the flamboyant entrepreneur, Pierre Bernard, nicknamed the “Omnipotent Oom” who established his ashram in Nyack in 1920 staying until he passed away in the 1950s. Since then yoga has flourished and studios have sprung up in the area with many offerings. Just how physically demanding you wish to get is up to you, whether you’re looking for an arm balance workshop, hot yoga, pre or post natal, gentle, mediation, vinyasa, kids, chair, restorative or even aerial yoga, there is truly something for everyone.
Yoga literally means “to yoke” the mind, body and spirit, meaning it’s a fabulous work-out for the body but also a pretty intense “work-in” for the spirit. The pillars of the yogic lifestyle are built around the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas. They’re a sort of code of ethics for yogis, a standard to hold oneself too. They’re tricky to live by every day but to hold them in one’s mind and attempt to incorporate them into daily life can only make the world a better place. Here’s a few to think about; non-harming (remember yourself as well as everyone else), truthfulness, non-stealing, cleanliness, contentment, self-study, mediation, enlightenment. You see what I mean, there’s more to a Downward Facing Dog that meets the eye.
Many people get into yoga to acquire the envied “yoga body” or to deal with an injury, others to manage anxiety and depression or simply to find some calm and balance in life. The side effects continue to be researched and published. According to the Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School, yoga “lowered excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes and reduced their need for medications. Yoga is now being included in many cardiac rehabilitation programs due to its cardiovascular and stress-relieving benefits.” The Mayo Clinic claimed “yoga can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve heart function.”
Whatever your reasons for participating in this ancient practice the results will not only be a toned flexible body, a calmer mind and a peaceful spirit but a self acceptance and polishing of your true self that you can allow to shine.