And now to the benefits of yoga, which is so much more than just exercise.
Yoga is synonymous with life and so is breath. The first sign of the departure of life is the disappearance of the breath. As long as we breathe we are alive.
In yoga the breath is the metronome of the pose, of the asana. A slow steady breath in and an even slower steadier breath out is what a yogi strives for. Gasping is a sign that the practitioner is pushing too hard and needs to ease off. Learning to breathe deeply and properly is one of the first and most significant benefits of yoga.
I have already written about breathing and the positive bodily changes that occur when done property; how different parts of the lung respond to oxygen (click here); so I will not repeat myself but you can refresh your memory by reviewing the information here and here and take a look at a post with a breathing exercise by clicking Breathing Exercise.
Yoga is not about competition. Recognize your individuality and practice accordingly. We are each and every one a singular individual and therefore made in a very unique way. For this reason yoga asanas (the poses) present different challenges for different people. Our very physique may make some asanas easier for us to execute than others. Accept this. Push with courage when you know that you can go a little further and accept with total love of yourself when you have reached your limit. Every yoga class begins with the yoga instructor stressing acceptance of oneself in the moment. This means no struggling, no stress, no anxiety.
We have all heard or read: serenity to accept what I cannot change, courage to change what I can and wisdom to know the difference. I can apply this attitude to the practice of yoga. It is such an empowering approach and one that I have not experienced in any other type of exercise program. It puts me totally in control. Regardless of how I feel when I start a practice, I always end in a calm and blissful state. And I am not unique in that.
The benefits of yoga are countless but what is most interesting is that of all the different modalities of “exercise” that are available, yoga is the only one that I know of that can be practiced regardless of limitations. In other words regardless of your age, whether you are very young or quite advanced in years you can not only practice but also benefit from the practice of yoga. Individuals with physical challenges in mobility such as arthritis or muscular dystrophy, limited visibility or some other challenge are able to practice yoga.
It starts with the focus on the physical and then gradually expands to a positive influence on the emotional and spiritual. And this is all because of the focus on the breath. Proper breathing has the power to calm and heal and elevates the yoga practitioner into a new realm, into an inner awareness of total peace: Peace with oneself, Peace with the world.