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.”
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.
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.