Many people begin a yoga practice to improve their physical health only to find, after time, that their lives have been enriched in many other ways. Yoga practitioners often report that in addition to improved flexibility, strength and balance, they are better able to handle the stresses and challenges that life offers through a stronger sense of self. As an art and science that has developed over thousands of years, yoga has much to offer the body, mind and soul.
The physical benefits of yoga derive from poses, or asanas, that are practiced in a variety of sequences depending upon the style of yoga you have selected. Yoga differs from other exercise in that the poses and movements are practiced with focus on the subtleties and effects of each asana. A growing awareness of the physical body takes place, unfolding like a flower or new leaf in the spring that spreads to absorb the warmth of the sun.
In the case of yoga, this nourishing sun is an internal light. Yoga unites the body, mind, breath and spirit through asana practice. While paying close attention to each movement, the mind becomes absorbed in the actions of the body. With calm, focused awareness the mind assists the body through challenging and unusual positions. This approach translates from the yoga mat to the rest of life. A calm and steady mind that has learned to deal with the physical challenges presented by yoga can remain peaceful and focused when presented with difficult situations in life.
The physical abilities and accomplishments gained through yoga result in more confidence and a deeper sense of personal identity. While yoga is not a religion, many people find that they are supported spiritually through its practice. The awareness of the physical body that grows from the internal sunlight gradually moves deeper until it reaches the spirit or soul. The quiet, meditative aspect of yoga helps each yogi to become more comfortable with who they are.
The successes and achievements that come from yoga practice are not instantaneous. Yoga is a lifelong journey. Like new rings of growth added to a tree each year, physical health, mental clarity and spiritual identity develop layer by layer. Over time, the yoga practitioner becomes a mighty oak under the light of the sun, flexible in the wind, but steady in a storm.