myAspria contributor Louise Hick explains that there is more to yoga than meets the eye.
Yoga isn’t just a sport. It’s also a life discipline with both physical and mental benefits. Here we decode the philosophy and the paths to prolonging its efficacy every day.
Born in India and practised for thousands of years, today yoga is often seen as a sport, but it’s so much more than a physical activity.
Etymologically, yoga means joining or linking together. In practice, it forms a bond between the body and the spirit. Based on a series of asanas (or poses), it’s also a breathing exercise which should come from deep within you and the breathing is intimately linked to the movements. This working partnership between the breathing and the body helps to forge an intimate connection with yourself.
Although yoga might look like a very simple practice, this aspect of it has an effect on emotional stability and concentration in the medium-term, reducing anxiety – as demonstrated by a study published by the University of Boston in 2010. Additionally, besides the proven psycho-spiritual benefits, many scientific studies have demonstrated the positive impact yoga can have on health.
Practised regularly, yoga helps to reduce blood pressure, to regulate the heart rate and to treat back problems. Harvard University has even published a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine which showed that practising yoga can have a positive impact on sexual arousal and orgasm in women.
Day in, day out
When we’re assessing the potential effects of yoga, it’s interesting to consider how you can prolong them, even outside the classroom.
The first step could be to review diets – which should be our first form of medicine, according to Hippocrates. Out with the mass-produced and processed as we take up our saucepans again to eat fresh, uncomplicated food and learn how to (re)connect with the things that are good for our bodies. When we wake up, lemon juice diluted with warm water, drunk on an empty stomach, is perfect for detoxifying our systems.
Secondly, we can work on our spatial awareness of our bodies. This can be achieved by practising a series of poses every day, when we get up in the morning (or at the most convenient time for each person; yoga is in tune with everyone). Third or fourth – and there are no more steps – should be ten minutes of exercise. Choose asanas according to how well their properties match your wishes for the day, even if it’s appealing to maintain a certain ritual in this daily practice.
Finally, pay particular attention to your breathing and take time out, three or four times a day, to stop and take a series of three or four long, deep breaths. It’s the perfect way to put some distance between yourself and the stress of daily life.
And to encourage yourself and “live yoga”, follow us on Instagram for sublime photos of modern, inspiring and beautiful yogis, @cathy-oga, @alicehaumont and @strechylicious. Namaste, virtually!