Mind, body and soul; is the essence of yoga. Although centuries old, there are several questions that continue to linger about yoga and most importantly its benefits. Firstly, it is important to understand that yoga is for everyone. It does not discriminate against age, fitness level or any other pertinent factors that one may think will preclude them from being able to practice.
Yoga has been a part of my life for over 13 years for which I have personally sought both the physical and mental benefits through daily practice. It has provided me with skills and tools to effectively balance the many different roles and aspects within my life.
The challenges faced by our young people today in both the school and familial setting undoubtedly play a significant role in their development not only on an academic level but also socially. I feel that children starting in the elementary levels are in need of such programming that will allow them a safe and healthy environment, where they can learn skills and tools to assist in their daily routine that require minimal effort but will provide lasting positive and healthy effects. Engaging in the practice of yoga provides just that.
Yoga encompasses a wide array of areas providing a holistic approach to the growth and development for all persons involved. Its foundation teaches good decision making rather than resorting to impulsive behaviour and risk taking. This is taught through self-regulation, self-awareness and mindfulness, a mind-body connection, leading the way to a healthier learning environment. My hope is that regular practice of yoga will assist in developing these skills and the individual will then be able to apply them to their everyday lives as they grow mentally, physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually.
Teaching our children self-regulation, the idea of control, at the elementary level has found higher levels of social and academic success. A study by Syracuse University in 2013 evaluated the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based yoga intervention in promoting self-regulation among preschool children (3–5 years old). Results indicated that the children who were most at risk of self-regulation dysfunction benefited the most from the intervention.
Furthermore, research has shown that yoga deactivates the sympathetic division, which prepares the body for action placing it into a fight or flight situation and stimulates the parasympathetic system, which slows down the heart rate resulting in a sense of calm, emotional balance, tranquility, and increased concentration. Through these experiences and practices, yoga assists in developing and maintaining healthy relations with others.
Not only does yoga promote health, by building confidence and reducing stress levels, it has known to improve several common illnesses such as depression, high blood pressure, digestive issues, and increasing metabolism. Furthermore, benefits provide flexibility, improved posture, balance, strength, building stamina, endurance, while toning muscles. Yoga detoxifies the body, stretches your muscles and joints while massaging various organs.
There is no particular recommended age to begin yoga as there different forms are available which offer safe and effective postures for everyone.In addition to this, yoga provides a type of activity that is gender neutral and does not discriminate against mental or physical disabilities, as the postures can be modified to fit the needs of each and every person.
Yoga is a union that shapes the mind, body and spirit, shaping the emotions, thoughts and attitudes of an individual. For many of us, our minds wander continuously. If we aren’t thinking about the future, we are often times thinking about the past but very rarely do we remember to think and live in the present. Yoga helps in the discipline that is required to do just this. Through the practice of yoga and being mindful of remaining in the present during practice is one of the biggest challenges a student encounters and at times I do as well. Finding the discipline to focus and remain in the mode of absolute concentration is demanding but through regular practice and awareness, the rewards are high as we all need self-control in our lives to achieve our goals and desires.
More than ever before, our lives have become fast paced and for many individuals, slowing down to reflect on ourselves is an option that is not available, or at least we don’t think it is. However we must be aware that each one of us holds power in creating and managing ourselves and we need to rememberin order to care for others and be effective in our many roles, we must care for ourselves first. It is a challenge for us to unplug and understand that we are not being selfish in taking time for ourselves. I know its hard work, but if we practice patience and take a risk, we will surprise ourselves of what we are capable of!
(Deepak is a certified Bikram Yoga Instructor, and teaches at studios across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. She has been practicing Bikram Hatha Yoga for over 13 years.)