"So yoga's all about flexibility?"
I loathe when people ask me this... sorry Maria (my friend/coworker who attended my power yoga class for the first time Monday night. Apparently I didn't teach a lot of "power" last night if she only felt her hamstrings stretching.).
I believe it was Maria's second yoga class in her life (Another friend/coworker and I took her to a hatha-flow class at a wonderful yoga studio in town called Yoga Gallery.) and was hoping she would enjoy it. She's been a faithful reader of Yoga Mama and requested to come to one of my classes with her friend Angie so I was delighted at the chance to share my passion.
The next morning at work, Maria and I began our IM banter when she asked me the age-old, misconstrued question about yoga that makes me cringe (again, my apologies Maria!). To the yogis and yoginis out there in cyberspace, obviously there is so much more to yoga than the physical postures or asanas - it's only one of the eight limbs of yoga. Yet for the sake of a more simple discussion, let's concentrate on this one limb.
So how did I answer Maria? Probably not very eloquently, but I did find an article on Yoga Journal listing 38 medically proven benefits by Timothy McCall, MD. I probably jumped to the "OF COURSE it's not ONLY about FLEXIBILITY" defense, yet it's so hard to put into words to a person only beginning to explore the power that is yoga.
Once a person begins practicing asanas consistently for a month or so, you begin to notice changes not only in your physical body such as increased flexibility and strength (My friends marveled at my arms after I began conquering chaturangas.). However there are noticeable changes in your mind (Better sleep anyone?) and the interconnection between the two, which isn't surprising since the word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj to "yoke or bind."
This is really a question one can only truly answer for yourself through the consistent practice of yoga. If I could sum the benefits of yoga in one word, it would be balance. The balance yoga allows you to make: spiritually, mentally and physically. I didn't know what yoga could "do" until I felt how it helped my back and tailbone that wouldn't heal with drugs and physical therapy. I didn't know what yoga could "do" until I realized after a month my depression was beginning to lift. Only until I invested a little of my time did I understand the magic of yoga beyond the assumed benefit of flexibility and this has kept me coming back for five years.
Keep in mind, you don't need to have an ailment to appreciate yoga. All you need is a mat and the patience to keep returning to it and discovering new awarenesses and appreciations within yourself.
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