Is Yoga More Than Just A Set Of Stretches?

Sept 2011. Before I completed my teacher training to become a Yoga instructor I had no idea that there was so much to the practice that I was unaware of. I thought Yoga was a set of exercises or stretches that could keep me fit and toned and that was about it. I was completely oblivious to the science behind Yoga, and all the other benefits that it could give to me. So I thought I would share some of them here.

Yoga is the oldest science of life and it can teach us to bring stress under control, something that is really valuable in this day and age as we are all facing so many more stresses and tensions beyond our control, we turn to alcohol, drugs, food, material things for happiness and as a release to the stresses that we feel but these things are all futile and only add to our problems. Yoga helps to bring things under control on a physical but also a mental level. Swami Vishnu Devananda, one of the greatest disciples of Swami Sivananda, often told this story to help people to understand the benefits of Yoga.

The human body can be compared to a car, and there are five things that a car needs to run properly, lubrication, a cooling system, electric current, fuel and finally a sensible driver behind the wheel. In Yoga, the postures lubricate the body, and keep the muscles and joints running smoothly, tone all the internal organs and increase circulation without creating fatigue. The body is cooled by complete relaxation present at the start, during and the end of every yoga class. Yogic breathing exercises during the class increase prana or energy which is the electric current. Fuel is provided by the food and water you put into your body, sattvic food preferably. And finally meditation stills the mind, the driver of the body, by meditation you learn to control the body.

Anyone can practice yoga, you are never too old, too sick, too inflexible, everyone can benefit from it. And the most important thing to remember when practicing is to listen to your body, never push yourself too far, never go to a Yoga class with a competitive mind because you are just competing against yourself, and ultimately it is you who will suffer. I am a very competitive person and it was difficult for me to suppress that urge to be the best in the class and to understand that no one person is better than another person in a class, we all have different bodies, different abilities, just like we all have different personalities. Once I could put that aside I benefited so much more from my classes.