Yoga is more than just a fitness regime; it's a habit, a practice, a way of life

How and why has an age-old practice like yoga managed to stay so relevant even today?

Lamya Arsiwala June 21, 2016 09:56:01 IST
Yoga is more than just a fitness regime; it's a habit, a practice, a way of life

Yoga is a practice, a discipline, a way of life. It is a journey of self-discovery. Although most people step on to the mat for various reasons, ranging from a desire to get fit, chronic injuries, weight-loss or dis-ease, once one commits to a regular practice, they start to see something change, something unfold within themselves. From the constant mental chatter of the monkey mind that we all experience through day, one discovers moments of stillness and I wouldn’t say it’s always pleasant. You actually start to hear your inner voice — you become aware, you become a witness of that chatter. And when we discover that, a whole new world starts to appear.

Yoga is more than just a fitness regime its a habit a practice a way of life

Lamya Arsiwala demonstrates yoga asanas

‘Yoga’ or that sense of inner union is not something one achieves in an instant yet in those quiet moments, one can get glimpses of that inner resonance that we all posses. Most seasoned practitioners will tell you that as the weeks, months and years go by, you continue to peel layers of yourself — things all of us live with — self doubt, a lack of self-love, judgment, fear and find a way to tackle these things. The most important thing is that we become more mindful and more aware — first of our bodies, our discomforts and over time of our thoughts, emotions, words and actions. This is what makes this old-age practice relevant to people all over the globe.

The world we live in, typically for city dwellers has become increasingly over-stimulating. We are always multi-tasking, moving about, dealing with stress at work or attempting to cope with the multitude of demands thrown at us. And amidst all this — yoga asks you to stop, even if just for a few moments and come into the present moment. It asks you to listen to the sounds of your environment, feel your breath travel into your lungs and then back out through your nostrils. It sounds simple, yet for many is not an easy space to access. That’s why it’s a practice, it simply becomes easier with time and commitment. You start with a few times a week and then it gradually becomes a daily habit, a discipline, and as you revisit this day after day, it becomes a way of life.

Yoga is more than just a fitness regime its a habit a practice a way of life

Today, when someone says they’re going to a yoga class, they are referring to an asana class — a class comprising a series of postures that stretch the body. And that is like any other physical exercise. Of course it will make you feel good, you’re sending blood flow and circulation to different limbs, muscles and cells in your body. This is a great antidote to our sedentary lifestyles, especially for people in the corporate world. However, when one learns to stretch the body along with keeping their attention on the breath, that’s when the magic of yoga begins to reveal itself. In essence, it’s all in the breath. Complete attention on the breath can bring one into the present moment. Some days it comes easy and other days not so easy, and this teaches one how to see the natural unfolding of our lives without judgment or negativity — it simply shows you that life is in a constant state of flux and that is a universal law.

Another aspect of a yoga asana class is relaxation. Yoga teaches you that our natural state of mind is one that is relaxed, but we have gotten so caught up in the many things that we do on a day-to-day basis that we have forgotten how important it is to rest and relax. We are always living in the future or the past. Yoga asanas work your nervous system, bringing you out of that flight or fight syndrome. They work to balance your glands leading your organs to function better and this is what brings that over all sense of calm and serenity. This can all be achieved in a traditional hatha yoga class.

Yoga is more than just a fitness regime its a habit a practice a way of life

However, if you opt for a more dynamic style class, you will fill find that it tones your muscles, helps you break into a sweat and detoxify and regulates your heart rate among many other benefits. Additionally if you’re someone who enjoys the gym or any sport, it can be a wonderful complement to your existing workout regime. This is probably what attracted people from the West to this age-old practice

Finally, even though pictures of people in yoga postures can seem acrobatic, advanced poses come to teach you more self-acceptance. When our environments are so achievement and goal driven, a yoga class is a place you can come, get challenged but always maintaining respect for the body and treating it with utmost kindness. This, in my opinion is one of the more powerful lessons of yoga. As you start to get mindful and respect and love your body, you start to extend this attitude to others as well. Yoga teaches you non-judgment one day and forgiveness on another, just the lesson you need tends to show up — whether on your mat or off. So, need any more reasons?

Lamya Arsiwala is the founder of The Yoga House and has been teaching dynamic vinyasa flow yoga and soft hatha yoga for the past five years

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