Yoga. The word itself comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join” or to “yoke”. There are many opinions on yoga that I have come across. There are people who scoff and comment about how yoga is simply stretching and does nothing. There are people think of it more along the lines of “a great workout”. Then there are people who, like myself, decided not to categorize yoga into any boxes, and simply accept it as something we practice for our whole wellbeing.
I turned to yoga when I was going through severe anxiety and mild depression; I was seeing a counsellor at the time and was also looking at every possible way to make myself feel better. By chance I decided to try out the yoga studio not too far away from my home. Initially, my intentions were to find that calm in my mind, that lacked in my daily life, with negative thoughts cycling and creating ruminations. My first class was a very crowded beginner’s class, and it was an odd and new environment for me. Still though, after leaving the class, I felt like some weight has been lifted off my shoulders, because even if it was for 60 minutes or so, I did not think and anticipate and worry about everything surrounding me.
This was almost seven years ago. Am I always calm and worry free today? Absolutely not. However, yoga has helped me become aware of how my body reacts to stress, to accept this, and work with the difficulties in a gentle way. In yoga, you move from pose to pose, synchronizing breath with movement. Sometimes, you pause and hold a difficult pose, you feel strained, your mind is fighting your body – but after you move on from the pose, you are relieved, and you feel good about making it through that moment. Yoga teaches us to accept this difficulty, and try to remain calm and collected during times of stress, physical and emotional. The beauty of yoga is the non-judgmental aspect of the practice. It is not goal oriented; it is accepting, and it allows the individual to be where they are. The goal of yoga is not the pose, not the hand stand, or the beautiful bridge pose (although with years of practice, it does make the body stronger and able to go into some interesting poses). The goal is as personal as you. The goal is you, unifying your mind, body, and spirit, in a beautiful and sacred way.
As with most things, it is easy to get carried away or addicted to that euphoric feeling (exercise in general provides a “high” as the endorphins are released from the brain). This is where a word of caution must come in – as with everything, balance is vital in yoga as well. It is important to not replace one substance with another – a negative behaviour, although replaced with a positive one, can still be an addiction. The good news is yoga is multifaceted in this way too – it does not have to mean hitting the mat hard every single day. Yoga is also meditation; yoga can be a few minutes to appreciate the birds signing, the breeze outside – it could be finding a few minutes to pause and take a deep breath and arrive in the present moment. You can do yoga every day without even unrolling your mat. Or maybe you unroll your mat and lay down – sometimes that is what I am inspired to do if I am tired or I do not feel like movement. At times, this leads to a few poses, maybe a stretch or two. But the beauty of yoga is that there is no expectation, and no goal to be achieved. It simply means to give yourself the space you need, to be in the moment.
When the world gets busy, loud, and overwhelming with all the tasks, responsibilities, and obligations we are often faced with, it is helpful to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember, everything will be okay, one moment at a time.
by Natalia Schell