Since the 1960’s when master yogis started bringing the art of yoga to the Western World, there are those who immediately understood its worth. Yoga was taught as a way of life, not a form of exercise, to its earliest practitioners. They prayed, meditated, and chanted words from ancient and defunct languages because these words had been used by so many of those who had been living yoga and meditation, they hold thousands of years of spiritual power.
Many of those same Westerners continued to follow their yogi masters until death and carry on that same tradition today. Rodney Yee is one of the many modern dedicated yogis who has built a huge following of his own through his knowledge, wisdom, and very noticeable charisma. Yee has used his own vehicle to bring the lifestyle of yoga to the younger generations via the internet, books, and CDs. Of course with daily practice, yoga asanas, or what some simply know as “moves”, will strengthen and mold your body while helping to widely increase physical stamina. But now the Western world is catching up with what “yoga” really means and what it is meant to bring into one’s life. We use the term “catching up”, because most loyal practitioners who have studied with or without a master or guru, already understand what it means to live yoga.
Let us go into some ways that yoga, as a lifestyle, can assist in the healing of the body and the mind; bringing you into good health and a peaceful existence.
For the Body:
Flexibility – A regular yoga practice can make the body more flexible, loosen up the muscles and ligaments, and make it easier to perform basic tasks, like stair climbing, walking, running, stretching, and even social exercises, such as, dancing.
Straightens your posture – Slumping when walking or sitting can give birth to back pain and usually means that the abdomen muscles are weak. When our posture is straight and upright, it eases the stress on the lower back, helps to strengthen the ab area, which then further strengthens the entire back. A straight posture aligns the body and you may even find yourself in a smaller dress size simply because your body is straight and your tummy is pulled into the back, which is a common yoga stance.
Lowers blood pressure – High Blood Pressure, one of the leading killers of Black people in the U.S. and many other ethnic groups across the globe, can be a tough and resistant disease to fight. A dedicated yoga practice will help to calm the mind, teach you how to stay in the present moment as much as it is possible so that you are not worrying about daily life. The Lancet British Medical Journal performed a study with people suffering from High Blood Pressure by having them lie in Savasana (the corpse pose). The Lancet found that after three months of a few minutes of Savasana each day, blood pressures dropped on an average 26 points in the top number and 15 points in the lower number.
For the Spirit:
Builds spiritual strength – Living yoga is delving into all that the practice has to offer for mind, body, and spirit. When yoga practitioners develop daily rituals around their practice, such as meditation, chanting, spending time in spiritual studies, etc. you begin to build a foundation that allows you to handle problems, anxiety, loss, and grief, in a more peaceful and thoughtful way. Nothing can rid a human life of these experiences and emotions but yoga can assist in understanding them better and living through them more peacefully.
Harmony – Yoga has a way of taking what you learn on the mat during practice and spreading it throughout the rest of your life. During practice with others, yoga practitioners develop a feeling of oneness with each other. They practice without argument or strife. They push their egos to the back burner so the session can remain a peaceful experience for everyone participating. This is a wonderful way to cooperate with others in every activity, and the more it is practiced, the more natural it becomes in and out of the yoga studio.
Mindfulness – Mindfulness is this mystery that some people can’t seem to wrap their minds around. What exactly does mindfulness mean? There could be a variety of answers, simple and complex, but we will go with this one; to be mindful is to be “aware now!” It is to walk through life in a way that you are conscious of what you are doing and saying and how it sounds and how it is affecting a person or the world. Too often we are walking around not even conscious of what we are doing. We sit our car keys on the television, either out of habit or truly being “out of our minds”. We blame it on age, being too busy, being overwhelmed, tired, etc. but regardless of its reason, it is all mind-less-ness. Mind-less-ness does not bring about peace. It leaves us in a state where we are always confused about something.
One of the greatest benefits of living yoga, instead of just “doing yoga”, is learning the habit of being mindful. We learn to only inhabit the space we are in and not try to be in five places handling five issues at once. You are guaranteed that none of those things will be handled properly. This month’s Time Magazine’s cover is all about Mindfulness and its importance in our lives and in our world. Even Time Magazine, one of the most respected magazines on the globe, has grasped the realness of what it means to actually live yoga.