Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yoga and Growth


Note: I wrote this for the Heartwood spring newsletter - thus it's brevity. I hope to explore these ideas further in later posts.

Surely the verb of springtime is growth. The sight of green returning to bare branches calls forth our own natural desire for renewal. What better time than spring to begin or resume your yoga practice!

Yoga promotes growth on many levels: physical, energetic and mental. Yoga is perhaps best known for its postures (asana), which directly effect the physical body. Asana create strength and flexibility, eliminate pain, lower blood pressure, promote healthy organ function, and more. Regular practice of asana creates a sense of deep health and vitality that goes beyond being not sick. The body can become a source of pleasure and strength, rather than pain and uncertainty.

In yoga we use the word prana (or energy) to describe the life force that animates the body. Breath, blood flow, and the activity of the nervous system are all aspects of our energy body. Imbalanced prana can manifest as stress, anxiety, and insomnia. The breathing practices of yoga, alone and within postures, gradually balance and revitalize the prana body. They offer a way to regulate our own energy without depending on external substances like caffeine or sleep aids.

Finally, yoga develops the capacities of the mind. Yoga postures and breathing techniques cultivate concentration, heightened awareness of the body and positive mental qualities such as patience, equanimity and will-power. Through meditation, we gain insight into thinking patterns that create suffering and eventually let them go.

From the yogic perspective, we all have the potential to grow far beyond "healthy" to live each moment with ease, joy and freedom from fear. If you'd like to take part in your own inner springtime, contact your local yoga teacher!

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