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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Yoga: Beyond the Hype


The history of yoga dates back almost 5000 years. Often the reference to yoga is accompanied by an image of poses and meditation. In reality yoga is more than that-it is often described as a science. If one stops to think about it, yoga incorporates anatomy, physiology, chemistry and energy, coming together through the use of breath, poses and consciousness.

Much has been written about the benefits of yoga, among which include:
  • reduction in the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and anxiety level;
  • pain management;
  • increase in strength & flexibility;
  • increase in mental clarity and concentration;
  • increase in energy;
  • weight management; and
  • increasing the strength of the immune and endocrine systems.

Yoga does not require a student to be model-thin, physically fit or young-it transcends all age groups, genders and physical abilities. It does not require expensive equipment, clothing or investment and can be practiced anywhere.

Since it’s integration into western society, yoga has taken off, sometimes in a direction that is contradictory to it’s original intent: to unite body, mind and spirit. The emerging popularity of yoga is undoubtedly attributed to media personalities who practice yoga and publicize their practice. Sometimes, despite bring increasing interest to yoga; such publicity is often accompanied by expectations that need to be addressed by the teacher. For example, I have been asked if I give classes in the same type of yoga that a famous actress practices. But the reality is that there is more to the actress’ physical yoga practice, she also meditates and tries to have a balanced approach to life.

The message that often gets lost in the hype is the following: Yoga is not just about the perfect body; or a great workout –it goes deeper than that-it’s how we interact with others, how we treat ourselves and how we obtain balance in our lives-the unification of mind, body & spirit.

The popularity of Yoga has opened the doors in non-traditional areas. Athletes are using yoga to improve their performance by promoting overall balance, reducing the likelihood of injury, and enhancing the athletes' physical condition. To have an athlete, who was so opposed to taking yoga express excitement over his flexibility and concentration during his game after several yoga sessions, is rewarding for the student. For the expectant mom, pre-natal yoga helps with relaxing her, making her more grounded and in control during the birthing process. The beautiful energy and confidence created in a pre-natal yoga class resonates long after the baby’s arrival. To see young girls and women gain awareness, self-confidence and esteem, during mother & daughter yoga classes, brings the intent of yoga into today’s environment.

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