We’ve talked about Christina’s personal journey through yoga and the new sense of consciousness that it’s given her. The practice of yoga even contributed to her creation of the Pildora site and community that has become so important to us all. Without yoga, Christina may not have found herself able to make the pivotal life changes that brought her to New York. It’s not an overstatement to say that yoga can be life-changing.
If you’ve practiced yoga yourself, you may already be familiar with the feeling of release that a good yoga session can offer. You are both more relaxed and more conscious. That heightened clarity is not only healthy for your spirit, but it’s productive to the mind. Some describe the post-yoga state as a kind of “natural high.” We think it’s one of the purest and most beneficial things you can do for your body.
So many people we’ve talked to have experienced similar feelings of lightness and clarity after practicing yoga, so we wanted to expand our first post on yoga to dive into more of the history of yoga, as well as some thoughts on poses and stretches you can do to gain more connection to your mind and body.
The History of Yoga
Though it’s become widely popular in the States in recent decades, yoga is, of course, an ancient and spiritual practice. With roots in India around 3000 B.C., Eastern yoga differs from the Western yoga most of us know, because it is seen as a sort of meditation and philosophy versus a physical practice. In translated Sanskrit texts, we learn that the yoga practice hinges on the transfer of knowledge and guidance from a teacher (guru) to her students.
There are many kinds of yoga, each designed to fit a specific need and practitioner. Hatha yoga, for example, focuses on asanas, or poses, that are meant to be held. Asanas aid concentration and meditation, creating a sense of stillness. This is typically the most popular kind of yoga, often practiced in the West. New forms of yoga have emerged, such as “hot yoga,” wherein yoga is performed in humid conditions in order to detoxify and relax the body.
Some yoga traditions focus more heavily on opening chakras, pathways through which life energy (prana) flows. Many emotional and physical problems can be attributed to blockages in chakras. Those blockages prevent energy from flowing properly. By concentrating on opening these chakras through focused yoga practices, we can better access our connection to our own bodies. Chakras are complex and fascinating elements of the body. You can read more in this beginner’s guide to chakras.
The Intersection of Mind and Body
The science of the mind/body connection is a fascinating one. Think about being in a state of intense hunger. You can’t focus on your tasks properly or make meaningful conversation when you’re not feeling physically sated. If you’re experiencing extreme stress, you may lose touch with yourself, sleeping less or forgetting to eat. The link between the mind and body is profound and still a little mysterious, but we’re sure you can think of some examples from your own life.
Meditation is a wonderful way to bridge the mind/body connection and to get to know your own consciousness more. However, if you’re accustomed to a hectic life, it can be hard to sit still for a meditation session. That’s one reason we like yoga so much.
Yoga literally translates to “union” — an apt description of mind/body connectedness. There is no division between the mental, emotional and physical states of being. The yoga practice offers an opportunity to be mindful in your own body, but also allows you to be with a community in a guided practice. For those who are new to spirituality or consciousness-boosting practices, yoga can be an excellent way to start.
A skilled instructor will be able to help you find your way into a state of relaxed consciousness — the ideal balance for a fulfilling yoga practice. Calming music will help, as well as warm, soft energy in the room. You can bring your own sense of openness to the practice. Allow yourself to be as present as possible, experiencing the yoga session with a sense of immediacy and focus.
Yoga Poses and Emotion
This takes more research or structured guidance, but it’s very possible to utilize yoga poses to reach certain parts of your body or open chakras. Certain backbends can energize a lethargic person, while deep breaths may successfully calm anxiety. Even a subtle flex of a muscle may invite a strong emotional reaction. We’ve seen yoga practitioners burst into tears on the mat, overwhelmed by a release of powerful emotion.
Stifled emotion sometimes creates tension in certain areas of the body. One of our editors, while pregnant, experienced a strong pain in her lower back that wouldn’t go away. After massage therapy and yoga, she discovered her own vulnerabilities and insecurities about being a mother. She carried those emotions in her back and it was only through mindfulness that she could make the association and work to ease the pain. After expressing herself and gently pressing through the pain, she was able to release it, as well as the accompanying anxiety that she didn’t even know she carried.
Since everyone’s body is different and every person’s emotional state fluctuates, you should pay attention to how your body responds to each pose. Does curling up in the child’s pose give you a sense of security and comfort? Perhaps that’s a sensation missing from your relationships. Does the warrior’s pose give you a sense of energy and agency? How can you utilize that in your own life?
Breathing is also crucial to a good yoga practice. You can observe your natural breath to see whether it is typically very regular or if it catches. Do you breathe long and deep, or do you tend to breathe in short, panicked bursts? By maintaining a steadiness of breath, you coach your body how to respond to a situation — with patience and calm.
There are many good resources on yoga poses — including your local yogi community — but here’s a particularly helpful article we found on the subject.
Now that we’ve talked a little more about the roots of the yoga practice and how you can incorporate some of its tenets in your own life, we’d love to hear how it goes. If you’re already practicing yoga, is there anything you’d like beginners to know? Share with us on Instagram!