Yoga and meditation are household words nowadays, they conjure images of pretzel type poses, muscular physique, hot rooms, funky leggings and leotards or incense and people sitting cross-legged looking pretty Zen.
So what is all the hype about?
Is yoga about physique and how good you look doing your headstand, is it about the latest trends and legging brands or is yoga about something deeper?
The simple answer is that yoga can be what you want it to be. Yoga is versatile, there is something for everyone in a way. It connects to you where you’re at and reflects back to you what you are, but perhaps it’d help to start with what yoga was intended to be.
A holistic lifestyle system
An approach to dealing with ourselves, others and life with awareness. Yoga practices on the mat or meditation cushion spill over into life. Yoga philosophy and practices guide how we walk, talk, eat, sleep, think so that we can live with wisdom, love, and minimal harm to others and the planet. It helps us make good choices so we can prioritise what is beneficial for us. Yogic lifestyle and practices help us to show up as the people we want to be, bringing warm presence to our interactions.
A process of awakening to ourselves
Life is a journey, we can’t embark on that journey without recognition and awareness of where we are now. What’s going on with us? What state are we in? What is playing on the mind or in the heart; what fears, concerns and desires are impelling us and causing us to show up in certain ways in our life? What needs attention right now? Yoga wakes us up, transforming us from human doings to human beings, alive to life and our experience of it.
A lens through which to understand and balance our (psychophysical and spiritual) needs
Whether it’s the chakra system, the panchakosa system or the ayurvedic system, yoga helps us to understand the different levels of who we are and where our consciousness is at. The physical, mental, emotional, social, energetic, spiritual. All are important and need to be tended to in balance. Through yogic wisdom, yogic practice and yogic company we begin to notice where the gaps are so we can correct the balance in non-toxic ways and be more healthy, happy and fulfilled.
Reconnects us to our essence and source
The ancient wisdom of yoga and the civilization from which it originated held that we are spiritual beings possessing a temporary body and mind, spiritual beings having a human experience. As such the overarching purpose of yoga practices was to gradually raise our level of awareness or consciousness to reconnect to our spiritual essence and Divine source.
Yoga was intended to be far more than exercise or keep fit. Yoga was and is a collection of practices, philosophy and way of life that aims at transcendence or spiritual realisation.
Okaaay, this is sounding a bit ‘out there’, miles away from my everyday reality, I hear you say.
Let’s bring it back down to earth, shall we?
Why should you consider Yoga?
So if you’re not a fitness enthusiast, if you’re not a sage in the Himalayas, if you’re an average guy or gal why should you do yoga or meditation?
We live in times that are increasingly demanding, simply surviving and providing for ourselves and our families can consume so much vital energy. Add to that a massive sensory and information overload that overstimulates our minds and bodies. It’s really a wonder that we are sane. There is little wiggle room and almost no headspace. We are walking wind-up toys, on autopilot in habitual activity 80% of the time. We are constantly giving our energy out, or consuming and putting things in, in our addiction to outer stimulation. We trade quality of life for quantity of life (in the form of consumption and constant juggling). But when do we fill up and replenish… from the inside? When do we turn our energy inwards towards ourselves?
Yoga and meditation allow us to:
- Step off the conveyor belt of life, to pause, breathe, take stock, collect ourselves, maybe even put ourselves back together!
- Clear the mind and detox from all the ideas and (sometimes senseless) information that we are exposed to.
- To hear our own inner voice, our own internal navigation system.
- Rest from body and mind so we can connect to and feel nourished by our inexhaustible essence.
Modern science is finding that yoga and meditation really are an amazing antidote to stressful, mass distraction living. Here’s one study from Harvard for example. As described in compassion focussed therapy models it is more important than ever that we come down from fight or flight (threat), achieving and go-getting (drive) modes to tap into our brain’s ’soothe’ system. Yoga does that; it switches on positive emotions, creativity, joy, clear-headed perspectives, empathy and heart connection to others, too. Things that I know I want more of in life!
If you’re still unsure what yoga and meditation really are come along to OmFest to have an experience for yourself. You can also watch this space for further illuminating and helpful articles.Grab a Ticket
About the author: Ranga Shah is a Yoga, meditation and wellness coach, and pain management physiotherapist