Where to begin with this one? A potted history, overview, philosophy, fitness, weight loss…
Traditionally yoga’s a practice aimed at realising Chitta consciousness, the aspect of mind active in dreaming; that which remains after intellect, memory and identity are withdrawn. Nowadays in the West what we take to be yoga’s most often Hatha or Vinyasa (flow) yoga and it’s pretty easy to find a class, spray the pants on, feel awkward, persevere and improve. But though the same’s true of many things, yoga has a way of stretching beyond physical exercise. It also feels like a: moving meditation, discipline, means of sharpening focus, loosening emotions, integrating being and experience and spreading that connection.
There’s a lot to it.
(The mental activities) are caused by valid knowledge (pramana), illusion (viparyaya), delusion (vikalpa), sleep (nidra), and memory (smriti)Sutra 1.6, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, B.K.S. Iyengar
The word yoga means to unite and that unity applies to body, mind, emotion and existence. With the body moving as it’s supposed to, the other three are corralled with Ashtanga, the eight limbs of yoga (post about the first limb – Yama). But without diving into theory, it just takes time to learn how to move without thinking, to balance and transition between postures (asanas) without getting into a pickle: mindlessness. After that it can be about synchronising with breath, opening chakras and realising heightened states of awareness/consciousness: mindfulness.
Yoga teaches harmony through addressing the dualities of mind and body, heart and mind, sensation and perception, inhalation and exhalation. It also offers an alternative to objectivity, a way of integrating into the flow that carries us along with everything else out there. It’s relaxing, and yes, it helps with losing weight.
It’s easy to take our bodies for granted and overlook the extraordinary experience of being alive; but yoga’s a good reminder, it also rolls back the years by loosening stiff joints, building strength and stamina and slowing mental and physical ossification. If life is a journey from our first mewling appearance to stillness and departure (shavasana), then yoga helps to fully experience the trip.
Finally, a previous post had a video of Thich Nhat Hanh talking about the benefits of focusing on the sensation of breathing for stilling the mind and meditating (Dhyana – meditation, seventh limb). Yoga helps with that too by conditioning the body to sit for long periods.
Be kind to yourself and give yoga a go.