Yoga - what does it offer the modern student?
Yoga has the capacity to change your experience of life. Anyone who practices yoga can tell you about the effect of the practice has had on their experience of the world.
Yoga has the capacity to change your body. The practice of Yoga offers us
- A Physical practice of posture and breath
- Self-regulation of the stress and the emotional response
- Cultivation of the mind body awareness
- The Experience of a deeper state of being
Yoga has the capacity to change your mind. Studies by numerous institutions have shown how Yoga can relieve depression and anxiety. The numbers I quote are taken from a study by a famous American university in Boston. Those who practice an average of 12 minutes a day over six weeks have seen
- a 33% drop in anxiety and psychological stress
- 88% increased positive experience
- 65% reduced sensation of negative experience
- An increase in resilience to stress and depression
The numbers are clear - movement combined with breath, mindful attention and relaxation gives a meaningful and significant result. The science of yoga is based around two principles – prana and space. Prana is the Sanskrit word for breath, life force or the vital principle. It permeates reality on all levels. There are 5 kinds of prana
- The first one enters via the breath. It is transported with the blood and sets all other energies into motion.
- The second moves down and out and is responsible for elimination.
- The third swirls and churns and aids digestion.
- The fourth moves up and out and is responsible for communication.
- The fifth and finalu one is Vyana Vayu, which expands and contracts and is responsible for the distribution of energy.
Prana is transported through the body in what we call nadis. These energy channels are used in a variety of traditional medicines. They correspond with the blood, lymph and nervous systems.
Studies have shown that when we control our breath, we focus our attention on the pre-frontal cortex. This is the area for our cognitive decision making. Using MRI and brain imaging, we can see how the brain activity affects the brain plasticity. Brain plasticity is important because the more flexible the brain is, the more it is adaptable to change. Sounding familiar yet?
This combined with exercises using lung volume and blood pressure stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and helps us control our stress response.
For guidance with the mind and the body in its stress response, we need to simply turn to the first book of the yoga sutras. In which the Maharishi Patanjali tells us “yoga Chitta vritti nirodha” - Yoga is the calming of the fluctuations of the mind.
In the simplest of terms, If we can control our breath, we can control our energy, we can control our body, we can control our mind and we can control our lives! 🙏