I asked this question on social media yesterday and the response was huge. Why do you practise yoga? From improving flexibility to fueling a yoga legging addiction, the answers were varied, positive and passionate. One yogi in the Cayman Islands even described the anticipation at the beginning of a class with the same excitement as jumping into the Caribbean Sea! Read on to find out why people practise yoga.
I love practising yoga for that "after yoga glow". You know that feeling after you rise out of Savasana and feel like you're walking on a cloud for the next hour? I've also noticed my range of movement and motion has reaped the benefits when I reach around for the Vegemite jar on the kitchen bench behind me at breakfast. I must also admit that I have slight activewear addiction. If I could wear yoga pants each and every day, I would. I'm not even going to sugar coat it or reveal how many pair of leggings I have sorted by colour coding in my drawers.
Others love yoga for the unique opportunity it gives them to be present. To forget about the shopping list, the work emails piling up, the three loads of laundry waiting for them when they got home, the casserole that they forgot to take out of the freezer to defrost for dinner tonight. This leads to the second most popular response which was to reduce stress and anxiety. And this response corresponds with the third most common answer. To stretch out tight areas of the body caused from sitting in a chair for far too many hours in one day. Our body tends to hold stress in the neck, shoulders, upper back, hips and hands, largely in response to poor posture. When we release this tension, we relieve mental stress and anxiety. It's the circle of yoga.
Some people admit they come to yoga for the physical aspects, end up staying for psychological benefits, and keep it up for the spirituality. I received several responses letting me know they've swapped out the gym for the yoga studio. That they get all their strengthening work from Chaturanga, arm balances and inversions, of which they can continue to practise at home or travelling without the need for equipment.
Headstands. A few declared their drive to practise yoga was to attain their ultimate goal of one day being able to do a headstand in the middle of the room.
Even those who are yet to roll out a yoga mat weighed in, expressing their desire if it simply wasn't so intimidating.
But the truth is that the practice of yoga is not just about changing the brain, the body, headstands, or even about gaining greater happiness. If it were, it'd be just like another spinning class or weight-training at the gym. In a culture in which we rush from one day to the next, constantly trying to change our health, body, or emotions, or to plan the future, yoga opens up the possibility of connecting to what we already have—to who we already are.
So, why do you practice yoga? The answer can be complex and personal, but it can also be simple and universal. Because I want to be present not just on my mat but also to myself and the people—the community—around me.