THE YOGA DIFFERENTIAL
The Little Things that Make a Big Difference: What Separates Yoga and Exercise, Why Yoga is Unique, & Why We Need It
FIRST, WE MUST TACKLE THE BULL
How do we prevent disease, save ourselves money, and improve our wellbeing?
One of the simplest ways is through physical exercise. There’s no substitute for simply getting right to it and breaking a sweat. Doing so helps us flush out the bad and build the strength and stamina needed to fend off disease. Plainly put, we have to put our bodies to work so they’ll continue to work for us.
A WORKOUT THAT WORKS IN
While most physical exercise is generally beneficial, Yoga offers something different. It is considered a “mind-body” exercise, coupling movements that build strength, flexibility, and stamina with those that help cultivate mindfulness and better sense of self.nInstead of working out, yoga allows us to “work-in” by first toning the body at the surface level, then delving deeper past the muscles to detoxify our organs and internal systems creating balance, and at its deepest, getting into the parts of ourselves we often tuck away, taking us on an unavoidable internal journey of self-reflection and discovery.
Most forms of exercise rev-up our already overtaxed nervous systems, pump adrenaline (a.k.a "the stress hormone") through our veins, and send more oxygen to the muscles by pulling it away from other organs and systems. While this process is good for maintaining physical stamina, it does nothing to balance the body or create long-term longevity and clarity in the mind. Unlike most exercise, yoga harnesses the powerful tool of breath. While might sound minuscule, learning to consciously control the breath can create somewhat of an autonomy over the nervous system (which governs stress among other things), hugely impacting our everyday lives. Through breath-work or Pranayama, the 2000-year-old practice of yoga works opposite of exercise by evening out the flow oxygen to fuel all organs and parts of the body, calms the nerves, and both stills and nurtures mind. Coupled with a conscious connection to breath, the poses then work to systematically strengthen and open the muscles and joints allowing energy to move more freely through the body.
At times the challenges that come with certain poses may even create the sense of stress in the body as it works through each posture. However, cultivating a constant rhythm of breath through these moments helps subdue discomfort in the body, soften distractions in the mind, and creates a sense of calm which can help us learn how to sit with and manage stress instead of succumb to it. The ability to do may be one of the greatest takeaways from yoga that translates into daily life as stress is now the factor most often linked to the onset of chronic disease and our rising healthcare costs. Over time, a continued yoga practice not only tones the body and benefits the relationship between body and mind, but also helps us bring our focus in, get to know ourselves a little better, wrestle through our contradictions, and perhaps uncover the source of our stress or unsettling with new resolve.
THE WARM, HARD FACTS
What work, daily life, and our modern high-powered world piles on onto us each day, yoga can help mitigate. It can help us create a little breathing room (pun intended) in life, strengthen our bodies, sharpen our focus, help us learn to manage our loads, and bring lightness to our shoulders (quite literally and figuratively). Through consistent practice and yoga, we can become more profoundly balanced, settled, focused, fulfilled, healthy, and resilient.