When we say “Yoga” many people have a perception of “slow and boring” or “overly spiritual” for their taste. Over the last 7 years I have tried various excercise forms as well as spiritual (not religious) and meditation practices and now I feel compelled to share my experience of Yoga to bust the various Myths and the all around impact Yoga can have on your life.
Body and Fitness
For years I have gone to the Gym with mixed results – even today I have life membership of one. First, ofcourse like many of us, I struggled with being regular. Then for a year or so I was regular because I had a good personal trainer (thank you Amin) pact was strengthening of my overall body and overall feel good factor of exercising. But there was a feeling of something not being complete. There was a feeling that I was working on key parts / muscles and yet somehow feeling of overall fitness was not coming. Whenever I went on trekking or rafting or some outdoor activity, I would discover new muscles in my body as they would ache – guess these secondary and tertiary muscles were not worked in the gym setting.
Then I did yoga for 2 years. Over the 2 years there were many changes I saw in my body. One was that I realized that my body had become inflexible in certain areas – bending and touching my toes without bending my knees appeared a lot tougher than benching 145 Lbs.
My yoga teacher (Neetu Singh from http://www.total-yoga.org/) told me it was all in the mind. At first I did not understand that – and was not able to make strides in flexibility until I started to relax my mind and then I had dramatic improvements. Guess our mind and body are strongly connected in both direction. A healthy and flexible body leads to a calmer mind.
Since about year 2000 my cholesterol level was above the normal range (around 260) when the recommended scales are:
Less than 200 – Optimal Goal
200 to 239 – Borderline High
240 or higher High
For years I did exercising at the gym, controlled my diet reasonably well and also took some cholesterol reducing drug and all I could achieve was to prevent it from cholesterol getting any higher. What I really wanted was to bring it at optimal level.
Then one year after I started yoga, I was pleasantly surprised that my Cholesterol level had reached around 180 – this was surprising to me. Later on I realized that the holistic nature of yoga had helped me a lot more than the combination of gym, diet, and drugs.
With the various Pranayams and Bandhas I was working on my overall body and not just the muscles. Pranayam was helping me balance all the hormones and energy and bandhas were helping me work the internal organs for a total impact.
Also it is important to note that when you get involved with Yoga, you get encouragement to change your overall lifestyle, beyond the yoga practice. You will understand the importance of right postures while sitting at home, importance of walking more and so on.
Many spiritual practices ask us to increase our awareness but don’t necessarily address the fundamental role the body plays in our awareness. Body is the basic means of our soul to interact with the physical world. So how does one ignore the most important interface when it comes to any spiritual practice. What I learnt is that there are many spiritual practices like Yoga and Vipassana actually base our spiritual growth by using body as a tool – and in my experience that works awesomely well.
Yoga works on balancing your mind and increasing your awareness through a holistic approach of focusing on your breathe through pranayams. Even the physical exercises and stretches increase our mental tenacity and concentration.
Beyond having a significant impact on your physical fitness, health, and mental strength, Yoga is truly of way of being that is holistic.
Yoga is a deceptively complex activity that trains your body, muscles, and mind at the same time.” – Steve Cox