There are many types of exercise, the majority in fact, that I would gladly pack in – were it not for the obvious health benefits. Take my Monday evening run, that leaves me feeling drained, ready for bed and has me limping down the stairs on Tuesday morning. There’s something about the very word ‘exercise’ that conjures feelings of pain, endurance and frankly, a lot of effort that I don’t always care to give after a full day of work. Nonetheless, there is one type of physical practice I find myself WANTING to go back to; one that leaves me feeling revitalised and has me returning to my mat at least twice a week.
And Yoga isn’t just a 21st century fad, to the contrary, Yoga has had devoted mat-sitters for over 5,000 years. With it still at the height of vogue here in 2017, you have to begin to wonder WHY it has everyone in such a loyal routine.
Of course, for those of you who are already devoted Yogis, the answer is pretty straightforward. Yoga, quite literally, keeps your body in its prime functioning condition; and by ‘entire body’ I’m also referring to the meta-physical parts such as mind-set. Historically, Yoga wasn’t categorised as a form of exercise it was a way of life centralised around self-study, wellbeing and longevity and it is the wider impact that Yoga can have on your life that perhaps explains why it resonates with so many of us.
The practice – or practices – of Yoga are versatile and adaptable and in this sense Yoga is a unique and personal experience. The requirements of our bodies alter all the time and even on a day-to-day basis we diversify the amount of physical and mental strain we subject ourselves to. The diversity in Asana (poses) caters for this; twists, balances, inversions, bends etc. all of which place the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation, meditation and concentration in varying ways. After a hectic day of work, a Yoga session spent with particular focus on balancing poses such as Eagle pose or Warrior III can be an invaluable way to focus the mind AWAY from stress. Alternatively, a Saturday morning that is kick-started with a Sun Salutation energises the body, stretches and strengthens all the core muscle groups and thus ignites an otherwise unproductive, lazy day at home.
And this is why it is so difficult to categorise Yoga. True, it certainly has tremendous physiological benefits but there is something substantially more influential about Yoga and that is the intrinsic sense of contentment and appreciation it gives us towards our life in spite of circumstance.
Yoga teaches us that WE are important. Taking a few hours here and there out of a busy schedule of deadlines, parenting duties and other obligations to simply focus on ourselves and address how we feel, teaches us to have self-appreciation. This is because the more we practice Yoga, the more perceptive we become to the state of our mindset and our physiological needs and we learn that it is necessary to make time to cater for them in order to keep them in their optimum condition.
Further to this, Yoga also offers a sense of escapism. There is something quite mesmerising when you come across someone meditating – especially if you’ve ever ventured to the bustling streets of Hong Kong where meditating within public areas is commonplace. An ability to close off the world and fence out your surroundings even in the busiest of places shows us that all we really need to escape from our lives for a little while is our self and a mat.
There is also something about practicing Yoga that leaves you with an unexplainable sense of complete wellbeing. As previously mentioned, unlike other physical practice that leave you feeling sore and achy, Yoga boosts your feelings of energy and ability; your muscles are stretched and feel lengthened and your joints feel open. Moreover, because your self-appreciation is boosted, you feel inclined to take better care of your body and gradually you begin to have more awareness of the types of food you are eating. The subsequent effect of this is that progressively your body gains better health, you begin to notice positive physical and mental changes and your self-esteem grows.
It is impossible to list the benefits of Yoga; not only because of the amount but also because to each and every Yogi the benefits are unique and varying. We all have different reasons behind why we return to our mat so frequently but all share the fact that we do so anyhow. Regardless of our external circumstance, Yoga adds value to our lives and helps us to appreciate ourselves and nurture our wellbeing. Yoga is a positive cycle and the more we practice, the more we cultivate positive change in our lives, which motivates us to visit our mat more often.