It is everywhere!!! It, meaning “Yoga.” Versions of it are used in advertisements on the television and in magazines. Corporate heads write of its’ underlying benefits and relate how engaging Yogic philosophies and practices aid in being a better leader in business settings. And, of course folks doing postures are all over social media channels. So… I thought I would take a moment to share some details of how Yoga is demonstrating impact in the scientific realm. Plus a few other ponderings.
- The physical movements associated with āsana, the postures, leave a ripple of benefits – flexibility, muscle coordination, and assist in healthier functioning of the organs and tissues.
- Prāṇāyāma, the conscious movement of breath and bodily energy, has a full list unto itself. On the physical level it improves blood circulation and improves concentration. It also invokes a relaxation response to the body and mind. When engaged regularly these breath focused practices are being proven to address and release anxiety and depression (components of post-traumatic stress).
- The ability to self-regulate, also known as having the skill to respond and relate to stress in a healthy manner, is addressed by almost every marga(Yogic path), whether it is āsana, prāṇāyāma, meditation or nāda (sound, chanting, etc).
- One’s ability to focus attention shifts as an increase in mind-body awareness is acquired. Literally, the brain’s neuroplasticity changes through the engagement of attention networks and other mental facilities used in the aforementioned practices. This increase in mind body awareness, also known as metta-cognition, enables folks to stand back and watch what is happening from a more neutral mindset.
- Lastly, is the bliss factor, some call it the endorphin rush post a physical practice. However, the intense state of flow, unity (what Yoga/yujactually means in Sanskrit) and peace/calmness can present a deep change in an individual’s perception of self and their path in life.
All of these obviously create an impact on an individual level and entice folks to come back for more. Ultimately, these individual changes ripple outward and initiate shifts within the segments of society in which these individuals work and live. This ripple effect is why I say, “Yoga will save the world.” And it this I add, “if you just give it a try it.”
This month I finished an intensive training with Warriors at Ease (WAE). It provides an extensive examination of how to offer trauma-informed Yoga. Many of the points outlined above were backed with data and practical suggestions for creating a space to initiate an optimal opportunity to experience these benefits for individuals with post-traumatic stress or sexual assault in their history. I deeply appreciated the insights and education of the military structure and culture, as well. As someone who has been teaching within military communities for over fifteen years, I’ve learned how different it can be to teach within this community versus in a Yoga studio. If you are a teacher who would like to be of service to those who serve this type of training is crucial; especially if you are not familiar with this sub-system of society.
Being a teacher in military and related settings is continually busting my own stereotypes and presumptions from many years of not knowing anyone within this segment of society. On the flip side, offering different aspects of this ancient system of self-care and exploration allows a discovery process into what Yoga entails and can offer individuals who may have their own notions and misunderstandings of these practices. I see how coupling teaching in settings outside a studio and my continual reflection of my own inner reactions and outer actions allows me to bring light to the stigmas and assumptions I hold.
One person I follow on Instagram is the photographer, Robert Sturman. His images visually invite in a consideration of who engages in Yoga and how it impacts the places they live and work – incarcerated individuals to police officers and cattle ranchers to military members. This ability to invoke introspection into Self and the potential impact Yogic practices can generate in the world is how I feel, in the depth of my heart, Yoga can assist us in being agents of change. The ability to be present in a variety of places allows space for transformation from our default mode of judgement and assumptions into a more thoughtful nature. A nature which allows us to consider unity over division from one another. Yoga has potential for anyone.
True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.
– Aadil Palkhivala
This essence appears differently in each and every person. How amazing is that! This ancient system is completely adaptable and integrate-able whether you are ten years old or you only have one leg or even if you have little faith in the practice itself. All of the emerging research validates the ability of this tool called Yoga to be the change for ourselves and the world around us no matter who we are or what kind of body we live in.
Personally, I am grateful to have begun the integration of these ancient teachings into my life over three decades ago so now I can appreciate the magnitude of this simply profound offering handed down by swamis, gurus and cave dwellers over thousands and thousands of years. I wonder if they foresaw the impressions Yoga could/would make on this modern era? How Yoga truly has the power to resuscitate our overstimulated, ever busy, tired selves? I have a feeling this may be why it has survived all these centuries of human existence… so it could be here to be of service to us now.