When someone finds out I am a yoga teacher, the response is almost always, “Oh, yoga! I can do yoga!” and he (or she) strikes his version of tree pose (aka Vrksasana). Often with hysterical results. It doesn’t matter. I appreciate the effort to connect.
But have you ever wondered what all the hype was surrounding yoga? Why celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Adam Levine are lovers of yoga?
The truth is there are many benefits to the practice of yoga. Physically, mentally and spiritually. The benefits extend far beyond the mat and have incredibly useful applications outside of the studio. You may hear devout yogis declare that yoga isn’t an exercise, it is a “way of life!” Well, as corny as that sounds, it holds true for me.
One of the important aspects of yoga is balance (which is key in tree pose, by the way). In the physical sense, your ability to balance signifies a strong core. In the mental sense, it shows focus and concentration. Spiritually, balance is our connection with the Divine. Your yoga practice is where you can work on improving your balance so it doesn’t matter whether you have Karate Kid skillzz or you have sea legs on land.
But why IS it so important?
Simply put, because we need balance in our lives.
Every day we juggle work responsibilities, a home, relationships and just about everything else – sometimes with disastrous results! We strive to keep everything stable because it’s the only way we can thrive. If we work too much, our relationships suffer. If we focus too much on our home life, then our work will be affected instead. Happiness is somewhere in the middle of either extremes.
In class, when you are holding the standing tree pose, you have to clear your mind, focus on the pose and calm your breathing. Sound like something that could help you during stressful situations? Of course. You can’t stand on one leg and run through your to-do list at the same time. It’s just not possible. You can use the same techniques needed to do tree pose to focus and finish your task when you’re in the office with a looming deadline.
Yoga doesn’t begin and end inside the studio. It will infuse your life. The skills you pick up in class are very easily translated into your every day. When you work on your balance during practice, you are improving your ability to maintain that equilibrium at home, at work or wherever you go.
Ultimately, your yoga practice can balance you. We cannot always control external factors in our lives so often that equanimity has to come from within. So the next time your yoga teacher asks you to take a deep breath in, focus and find your center, take a mental record of that request and walk out of the room with it.
Good luck and happy yoga!