When you hear the word “yoga” you may think a lot of things! You may roll your eyes and say that’s “only for hippies.” You may laugh and think it’s just for those wanting to talk about things like “chakras and third eyes” or you may smile and say, “ah yes, yoga!” At The Wellness Center we have been striving to break the clichés and misconceptions about yoga for years, and this may be why we were voted the 2017 Best of The Best Yoga Studios in the NEK last year. September is National Yoga Awareness Month and the perfect time to look at what yoga is and what it isn’t.
If you Google “what is yoga” the first thing that will pop up on the screen is this: “a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation,” which may have you also googling “ascetic discipline” to which you will find this meaning: “rigorously self-disciplined,” which gives us the Modern English ascetic. Ascetic can be a noun: a person with incredible self-discipline and the ability to deprive herself, or an adjective that describes a lifestyle.” Although you will see that in Hinduism they use yoga as part of a spiritual practice, the majority of what yoga really is, is mindfulness, mindfulness of the breath, mind and body. And of course what we can assume by it being so popular is that people find benefits in both health and relaxation.
Yoga is not a “religion” nor does it require any specific beliefs or rituals. It is “practice” meaning each class is a time to work on the aforementioned mindfulness exercises with the breath, mind and body. So really, yoga is for any “body,” regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliations. It’s really only religious or spiritual if you want it to be! Yoga is also so versatile that there are options that include lots of activity and sweating such as a “Vinyasa” class all the way down to zero physical activity at all like in a “Yoga Nidra” class. And while yoga does tend to use a lot of words and meanings from its origin in the language of Sanskrit, those words are just like any others that can be translated. So instead of seeing “Vinyasa” you could also see the words in your own mind as “athletic yoga,” and instead of seeing “Yoga Nidra” you may see the words “Yogic Sleep” or “sleep yoga.” Just like any other language we can learn the English or “Americanized” terms to better understand.
People can do yoga their whole lives – there is no end game. Each class becomes its own specific time to focus on whatever you need to focus on that day. If you have been feeling anxious and stressed you may want to use that time to focus on deep breathing and relaxing. If you have been feeling stiff or achy you may want to pick a class to focus on lengthening the muscles and supporting better alignment.
What is different about yoga and what helps boost its popularity is that it always reminds people to focus on breathing and to welcome breath into the body. When we take a moment to focus on our breath we almost always automatically start breathing deeper. Go ahead, try it. Just close your eyes for a moment and notice your breath. Feel it coming in, coming out. Maybe notice that slight pause after the inhale and before the exhale, then the slight pause after the exhale before the next inhale. Maybe notice how the belly starts to grow with breath in and then releases back down with breath out. Well folks, if you tried that, you just did a little yoga! There is countless evidence and clinical support that proves yoga reduces blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and more. If you have high blood pressure or more than your fair share of stress, etc. don’t be surprised if a medical professional suggests yoga!
At The Wellness Center we are currently offering 11 different yoga options every week and then about another dozen classes that use some yoga or other types of “mind-body” practice. With over 100 different people coming in each week to take time to practice all different types of yoga, we know that it isn’t just something we like to offer, it’s our responsibility to offer it. We make the health and wellness of our community a priority when scheduling our classes. We know we are a community that needs to take more time to breathe, and just be. Yoga is a great way to do that. From the sweaty types of yoga all the way to yogic sleep you can find it here. This Saturday at 10 am we are also offering a Face Yoga workshop! The possibilities never end. At The Wellness Center we only staff highly trained and certified professionals to keep you safe and satisfied. If you are still curious, come try a class! Your first yoga class (or any class) is always on us.
When in doubt and in honor of National Yoga month, we would invite you to take a moment each day, even just for a few seconds to just breathe! If you can add some wonderful stretches to that, great! We know not everyone loves yoga or wants to come to a class, but we do agree with the millions world-wide that yoga can change your life and your health.