You probably know very few people who haven’t at least tried yoga, but its travel to America is actually pretty recent. Even 50 years ago, it was considered a very new concept for Americans, and (like many things) we were quick to Westernize it. That’s not necessarily a bad (or good) thing, but it is worth noting and taking a close look at those roots. There are plenty of benefits to today’s American version of yoga, but something has been lost in the translation.
Whether you’re a veteran yogi or have never taken a class, remember the original foundation of yoga the next time you practice. You can apply these to every practice, pick and choose which work for you, or simply check them off your list as nice to know, but not relevant right now. Yoga can be a part of your holistic health, but not if you just stick with the bootcamp style versions.
You might be missing out on a lot more than you think.
It’s not all about the asanas
Yoga today is synonymous with asanas, or the poses. You probably have a favorite (supine twist tops the charts for many) and a few that you shy away from (bird of paradise or crow, anyone?). However, the original intent of the asanas was to prepare the body and mind for hours of meditation trials. After all, you wouldn’t want to sit in lotus pose for hours with a cramp in your calf, would you?
The asanas are a very small part of the “original” yoga, albeit and important one. It’s why yoga teachers tell you savasana (corpse pose) is the most important: It’s the only still meditation practice in today’s yoga classes.
Pranayamas count, and they’re difficult
Pranayama, or the practice of breathing, can play a huge role in your yoga practice or none at all. If it’s in a class setting, that’s often up to and led by the teacher. There are many more options than “just” the vinyasa-style “ocean breathing,” too. A lot of western yogis choose classes that are more about the asanas than the pranayamas because they want to feel like they’re getting a workout.
That’s fine, but the reality is most people aren’t breathing their best and it’s only hurting them. Breath is, obviously, the fuel of life and yet most people are taking shallow and interrupted breaths. Focusing on your breathing, doing so more deeply, being conscious of it and challenging yourself can provide endless health benefits. Try a pranayama class and you may be surprised by the results.