An Introduction to Yoga and the Benefits behind our Mind, Body, Breath Series

In recent years the popularity of yoga has skyrocketed and yoga studios and classes bearing fancy (albeit sometimes confusing or intimidating names) are popping up all over the place. In light of this yoga-craze, and to shed some light on what we will be doing in the upcoming Mind, Body, Breath Series at MTN LAB I figured we’d dive into the question of what is yoga? This will be the first in a series of write-ups to give you a sense of what yoga is and some of the concepts we will be exploring in this series…

What is yoga? This might seem like a simple question with a singular easy answer and in some ways it is, but the deeper one dives the more complex and potently transformative this thing called yoga becomes. We’ll start near the beginning… In one of the system’s foundational texts, it is written that “Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah” (don’t panic if your brain just entirely skipped over those words…). This can be translated a hundred different ways, but at its root, it conveys this idea that yoga is the quieting of the fluctuations of the mind stuff, it is the building of a center that allows us to remain steady, centered and true to ourselves when the world around us gets crazy. The potential here, held in those four Sanskrit words, is incredible and in a lot of ways summarizes the entirety of the system of yoga. Just for fun, take a moment to picture what your life would look like if you were more resilient and steadier when faced with the sometimes chaotic, tumultuous nature of day to day life. That state, that steadiness is ultimately the goal of the practice of yoga. In seeking this yogic state, this quieting of the fluctuations of the mind each facet of the system of yoga plays a key role in teaching essential skills and providing invaluable tools.

So, we’ve established that ultimately yoga is the quieting of mind stuff, but how does that work, how does one get there, what does yoga in practice look like? In today’s world, especially in the west, the word yoga carries with it connotations of exercise, stretching, flexibility. Occasionally connotations of meditation and spirituality creep in as well, but for the most part, the word yoga is associated with a physical practice. While there is truth behind this association between yoga and a physical practice, the reality is that there is so much more to it. This physical practice, traditionally called Asana, is just one piece of a complex and multifaceted system that makes up yoga. In our upcoming series, we will focus on three important facets of this system, all aimed at increasing your steadiness, building your center. These three practices are Asana the physical practice, Pranayama the control of the breath, and Meditation the control of the mind. Each of these are crucial pieces in building a steady and true “center,” of increasing our personal awareness and of tuning in to our highest potential.

To sum it all up… Yoga is a series of practices including Asana (physical practice), Pranayama (breath practice), and Meditation (mental practice), among others that are geared at helping the practitioner build their center, ultimately becoming steadier in his or her daily life. Obviously, there are other benefits as well, and we’ll explore those in subsequent posts. Stay tuned to dive a little into these three fundamentals practices of Yoga

- Bria Gillespie

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