Walking into your first yoga class has a similar feeling to your first day at school. Hopefully, the experience is a positive one. What you take into the class such as your thoughts, expectations and inhibitions can prevent you from getting all that there is to gain while you are on your mat. When you open your mind without expectations, letting go of all your inhibitions, your yoga practice becomes more specific to what you need.
Yoga is defined as union with ones’ consciousness. As with other interpretations, it could be simply defined as union with body and mind. As mystical as yoga may be, there are sound scientific facts that support the value to adapting yoga to your weekly curriculum.
Take breathing for example — as important as it is to each and everyone, very few of us actually do it very efficiently. Breathing is a fundamental aspect of yoga that brings union to the body during movement. One of the goals in yoga is to open up the lungs and get the maximum amount of oxygen into the body in each breath. In science terms it means a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and assistance in fundamental cellular development.
Without much debate it should be safe to say exercise is good. Therefore, with yoga being an exercise, it would hold to the same beneficial values. While on the mat, you are guided by an instructor through a variety of poses that cause muscles to be contracted and lengthened. Each pose has a specific purpose to help stabilize, strengthen and stretch. While your muscles are being contracted, they are squeezing your veins, assisting in pushing deoxygenated blood towards the heart and back to the lungs to be oxygenated.
Another example is how balance poses strengthen synergistic muscles that eventually help with body alignment. Proper alignment keeps repetitive or dynamic movement from creating unnecessary wear and tear on ligaments, cartilage and bones. In other words it helps from developing chronic pain, impingements and injuries when taught properly.
In yoga there are a variety of inversions that can be challenging and still there are scientific benefits to support the value of standing on your head. One of the immune system benefits is drainage of the lymphatic system, which gets a build up of interstitial fluid that leads to illness. By being in an inversion, you help the lymphatic system drain the interstitial fluid from the lower limbs towards the heart and out of the body.
Towards the end of your yoga class you may have a chance to experience a short meditation where you focus on your breath and let the mind empty. Meditation is something we forget or just don’t understand the real benefits. When you learn to relax and breathe in a safe environment you can eventually start applying meditation into your everyday chaos, bringing a calm back to your center. In doing so, you minimize stress that can easily be traced to a number of ailments.
There is no one style of yoga that prevails over another. Explore a variety of yoga styles; try a pranayama or a meditation seminar. Remember the most important fact about yoga is your path is yours alone, as in life. Try an introduction class, most local studios offer it for free or at least for a minimal cost.
Yoga has a 5,000-year history with redeeming traits redefined in modern science with proven benefits. Whether or not it’s just hype…ask me in another 5,000 years.