How to Change the World By Doing Yoga

by Tammy Strobel on September 27, 2010

Yoga mat

Research has documented the many positive effects yoga has on an individual’s emotional and physical health. More specifically, individuals who practice yoga are more likely to experience a greater sense of happiness and well-being. Plus, the practice is challenging, fun, and a fantastic exercise.

So what is yoga?

Yoga refers to…

“traditional physical and mental disciplines that originated in India. The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Within Hinduism, it also refers to one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, and to the goal towards which that school directs its practices. In Jainism, yoga is the sum total of all activities — mental, verbal and physical.”

The definition above is based on the history of yoga. But it doesn’t tell us how real people feel about the practice.

By practicing yoga you’ll learn a series of postures that will help you stretch and exert your body. While you’re doing these postures you focus on your breath. Focusing on your breath will allow you to go deeper into your pose and cultivate a meditative state.

An inmate at Coffee Creek describes yoga as:

“This is the most fantastic way to begin to awaken to our body, mind, and feelings. To relax and get real. This class has a played a major role in my desire to change my life and create healthy habits.”

Living Yoga

Since I’ve been Living in Portland, I’ve been volunteering at an organization called Living Yoga.

Living Yoga is a non-profit outreach program “teaching yoga as a tool for personal change in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, transitional facilities, and to populations who would otherwise not have access to it.”

Through the practices of yoga and meditation, Living Yoga teaches skills like, mindfulness, impulse control, emotional regulation, and more. The programs aim to “motivate and encourage students to utilize these skills in their lives outside of the classroom…to bring more awareness to their actions and the consequences of their actions, to make decisions based on short and long term outcomes, and to, daily, create an internal emotional state of ease, acceptance and accountability.”

The organization is volunteer driven and only has two paid staff members! They do amazing work in the Portland community and illustrate how you can change the world by doing yoga.

My experience with yoga.

Happiness. Joy. Silence. Beauty. Stillness. Strength. Confidence. Breath. Karma.

When I think about yoga all of these words come into my mind, especially the word karma. Karma literally means “to do.” And Karma yoga relies heavily on action. Yoga is not only a way to exercise my body but it’s also a life philosophy. It’s about being in service to others and doing good deeds. And I can’t give back if I’m stressed out, unhealthy, or unhappy.

For me, yoga is a form of active meditation. While practicing, I’m able to work out all the kinks in my mind and body. For example, practicing yoga gives me the extra energy to keep volunteering in my community and be more kind, loving, and patient with friends and family members.

If you can’t afford to practice yoga at a studio, practice on your own. All you need is a yoga mat and comfortable clothing. A yoga mat is important because it will prevent your bare feet from slipping on the floor.

Remember, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars a year on yoga stuff to reap the physical and emotional benefits of the practice.

Get Involved!

If you’re passionate about social justice issues, do something!

Consider donating to Living Yoga or creating a similar organization in your community. Yoga has the power to change the world by helping people become more mindful and aware of their choices.

1 EllenM September 27, 2010

Great article! It’s true – as a yoga instructor, I see the difference in people from when they walk into class versus when they walk out. Plus, yoga is a great tool for simple living.

2 Jon Sookocheff September 27, 2010

I like this idea of Living Yoga, of the yoga community connecting with and giving back to the larger community. All too often I practice yoga as a means of escape, as a way to shut down, a way to unplug. Granted I take the yoga-ness with me — yoga keeps me sane, helps me focus, allows me more productivity and less stress — the actual hour or two of practise time is oftentimes a means of escape. So this idea, of giving yoga back to people, appeals to me. Thanks for sharing!

3 John Lemire September 27, 2010

Great to hear you love yoga! Yoga can undoubtedly change your world . We must be on the same wave length because I just posted an article on my blog about this very subject.
Yoga changes your world from the inside out.
-John

4 Rochelle September 27, 2010

Thank you Tammy – this is great! Your writings get right to the heart of things in a nice and simple way. I love yoga – and am currently trying to find the best form for myself. I have a spinal injury that makes it tricky. I had been thinking about teaching so others with “limitations” could also find their niche in it and enjoy. You are helping clear the dust out of my mind over this idea. And once again – thanks for sharing yourself with all of us.

5 Mike Donghia September 27, 2010

Yoga rocks my world! I just started this fall, but it’s already had a noticeable impact on my flexibility. Plus, I start each day with quality “slow time” – really sets the mood for the rest of my day and gives me time to think about what I really need that day.

Just wrote on my blog about “letting go of imaginary needs” something yoga time lets me contemplate:
–> http://artofminimalism.com/letting-go-of-imaginary-needs/

6 Clearly Composed September 28, 2010

Time spent with yoga is always precious and giving. If you simply show up for it, no matter what the mood, it will share with you what you need at that given time. It’s a priceless resource than anyone can use wherever they may be in their journey. Yoga changes people, and you can’t change people without the world changin’ too! :)

7 Stacy September 28, 2010

I love yoga, it definitely makes a real difference for the mind and body! It can set the tone for the whole day or change the tone of your day depending on when you incorporate it into your day. I need to get back into it, I haven’t done any since I became pregnant earlier this year.

8 Nina | Castles in the Air September 28, 2010

As a Black belt in Karate, flexibility is key to creating harmony, balance, and strength when practicing it. Not all folks will be uber flexible, but we can at least try. I know many people who practice Yoga (I’ve done it once myself, looking to try again soon) and the benefits I’ve seen are amazing! Definitely worth a try, no matter how young or old you are. It’s for everyone! (Just like how I say martial arts can be for everyone too. You don’t have to be The Karate Kid, but you can still learn how to kick some serious butt! Crane kick and all!)

9 Carolina September 28, 2010

Tammy,
I’m not really a commentator on your blog until now…But this point made me realize that I could help Living Yoga through my entrepreneurial venture. :D I sell eco-friendly sports bra on the side and write as well and would love to see if I can partner with Living Yoga. I’m going to shoot them a quick email later tonight….If you know of a contact, please shoot me a quick email as well.
Might copy you on the email that I write.
Best, Carolina

10 Tammy September 28, 2010

Thank you Carolina! You rock. :)

11 Emma-Jayne Saanen September 28, 2010

I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of yoga. Even after years of neglect, the moves soon came back to me. It was a delight to read this article.

12 Tammy September 28, 2010

Thank you all for the positive feedback. :) I’m so happy you found the post helpful.

13 Tabita October 1, 2010

Thanks for this post. I have been meaning to try yoga for over a year now and I think I’m finally going to bite the bullet and do it!

14 Kori Golightly October 4, 2010

Recently I’ve been thinking/writing a lot about scheduling and making time for what I love. Yoga is one of the things I always come back to; just doing a few poses each morning makes such a difference in my whole day. Thanks for spreading the word!

Kori

15 Quica October 7, 2010

If everyone was an artist and practiced daily Yoga, we could save the world…

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