What Doing Yoga Accomplishes
Yoga is sometimes said to be about transformation. That can be an intimidating idea. It is more modest to say that yoga is about change. Of course, with enough change there will be transformation. So, as a starting point, think of yoga as an activity that supports, and nurtures change. Most people are drawn to yoga initially seeking a specific kind of change—relief from some kind of physical discomfort. Most of us discover soon thereafter that there is much more to yoga than that.
Yoga is wholistic. It opens the door to experience changes in body, mind, and spirit, all at once.
In Svaroopa®, the asanas—the physical element of yoga—are designed to release tension in the muscles, tendons, and other tissue attached to the spine There is universal agreement that the spine is the central channel for our senses. When the spine is free of tension, tension in every other part of the body unwinds and restructures. The nervous system and muscles awaken and align in healthy, natural ways. Aches and pains dissolve. We are more comfortable in our bodies. That is change in the body caused by doing yoga.
As the body changes so does the mind. The mind is absorbed in being aware of the body. This single pointed focus soothes the mind. The distractions that preoccupy our minds during our everyday lives fade away. By turning our awareness inward and focusing on one thing, the mind is less inclined to dwell on worry about the future or regret of the past. The mind abides in the present and finds it can be content with what is. That is a change in the mind caused by doing yoga.
When the body and mind are calm and quiet, we notice something else about ourselves. There is a part of us that is unchanging. It is the part of us that has been and is always present, seeing what is unfolding in our lives in the moment. It is an awareness apart from body and the mind. In the body and mind, things in life happen to you. To spirit, life happens through and all around you. That awareness, being aware of that awareness, is spirit. Spirit is both something in us and something larger that we are a part of. It is the hardest element of yoga to describe in words and it is often the last element that we discover. That discovery is itself a profound change.
Yoga works most effectively when it is done often. It works best when we do it because we choose to do it. It is like brushing teeth, or showering, or doing the dishes. We know the activity will have results—a clean, healthy mouth; a clean, enlivened body; a kitchen that is neat and tidy again. By doing yoga, we know that we can change our mood, shift our attitude. We can relax our body and calm our mind; we can find the sense of spirit at the core of our being.
Living in our world can feel like being in a boat on choppy waters. Practicing yoga makes the boat ride better. There is immediate relief from stress of being in a sea of uncertainty. It is refuge from what ever is disturbing us. Having spent time in the shelter of our Self, we are better prepared to venture forth into our lives with confidence that we will not be overwhelmed. We see how to right the boat in the waters before us. We also see the bigger picture. The weather will change. Calm waters will return. And they will get choppy again after that. There are cycles in our lives. Our life is itself part of a cycle larger than we are.