Why Do Yoga?

Andrea Pieck by: Andrea Pieck
Why Do Yoga?

A teacher of mine once told me that meditating is working with your mind through your mind while doing yoga is working with your mind through your body. When reading the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, I learned that according to Hindu traditions there are many ways of getting to enlightenment.

B.K.S. Iyengar explains in the introduction of his book “Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali” how there are different types of people who need various methodologies to achieve enlightenment. Ivengar summarizes that the few “wise born” ones can easily experience Samadi (the absolute and indivisible state of existence where all differences between the body, mind, and soul are dissolved) thus allowing them to understand complex ideas in a fast and profound way. The vast majority though, mainly us mere mortals, have a need to understand everything step by step, in which case methodologies such as practicing yoga are the best way to become enlightened.

In my opinion, we as Westerners have a difficult time understanding the basic concepts of Hinduism. We struggle with the exact meaning of words in Sanskrit or Pali. By doing yoga we can discover the meaning of the theory as we start noticing changes in our body, on the way we perceive things, on our emotions and our reactions.

Yoga demands concentration yet allows us to acquire consciousness of our body. This is due to the difficulty and utmost attention we need to enter the asanas or poses, and the conscious effort for us to be in contact with our breathing. These practices calm our mind and bring us to the present moment, giving us clarity and perspective, such as when we meditate.

Aside from working with our mind through our body, Yoga is also a healing practice. The asanas are postures which stimulate specific parts of the body and allow them to oxygenate better. While practicing, our muscles are constantly contracting and expanding, getting both stronger and flexible. It has been found by researchers and medical practitioners that doing yoga regularly is ideal for disease prevention and healing.

Having good guidance through our yoga path is important, not only because yoga poses are quite challenging to our whole body, but also because we may not have the best information at hand when trying to be self-taught. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind what K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, always says: “Practice, all is coming”. Yoga is definitely an individual experience, giving you a better understanding of your own personal work.

Aside from all of the advantages I’ve just pointed out, Yoga as a “main course” has a lot of yummy “sides”. You can work with your mind through your body, heal and prevent diseases, have fun, exercise, get fit, eliminate stress, relax, improve circulation and posture, learn how to breathe correctly and many other advantages that you will discover though practice.

Well, after all that has been said, my question instead would be, why NOT do yoga?