Why Yoga?

Ever wonder why otherwise rational beings would willingly choose to contort themselves into bizarre shapes?  Serious reasons aside, many of us are hooked from the moment we stumble into a yoga class and get to take off our shoes and move in ways we haven’t dared since childhood.  It’s fun, it’s freeing, it’s empowering, and we walk out feeling amazing.

Yoga has the power to transform bodies, minds, and lives.  Most of us are initially drawn into the practice on a quest for fitness, and soon notice improvements in strength, flexibility, and stability.  Our bodies feel better than we ever knew possible, even if we thought we felt fine before.  After a while the awareness and equanimity so carefully cultivated in our yoga practice start to spill over into the rest of our lives.  We grow more perceptive and focused.  We begin to notice – and maybe even alter – our unconscious attitudes and habitual patterns.  Over time we become more resilient and compassionate, less swayed by life’s vicissitudes.  One of the best analogies I’ve heard is that the practice of yoga places a mirror in front of us, even if we didn’t come to the mat looking for spirituality or therapy.

Many potential practitioners wonder if yoga will help them lose weight.  The answer depends on your current fitness and activity level, as well as the type of yoga.  The practice can range in difficulty from chair or bed yoga to something that looks an awful lot like gymnastics, so it’s difficult to generalize.  Vigorous practices such as vinyasa, power yoga, and Ashtanga are among the styles most likely to directly contribute to weight loss.  However, any style other than restorative should help build muscle mass.  And all styles of yoga teach body awareness, which can be the greatest contributor to weight loss.  We develop a greater awareness of the effects of different types of food on our bodies, and gradually make adjustments to our eating habits.  The whole process occurs organically, a natural continuation of our yoga practice.  Of course, yoga isn’t about weight loss or external appearances; it’s about living mindfully and accepting ourselves as we are.  But that, too, comes with time and practice.

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