Why Yoga?

MAPH Yoga Night is Wednesday, March 7th. I know that those of you who already practice yoga won’t miss this chance for a FREE yoga class. But, for those of you with some misgivings and hesitations about whether or not it will be worth it, here are some reasons why I love yoga and why it is so beneficial for you (especially during such a busy, soul-sucking time of your life).

Contrary to a recent New York Times article, yoga isn’t actually related at all to tantric sex orgies (sorry for those of you that were expecting that on MAPH yoga night). While, yes, yoga may limber you up a bit for aforementioned activities, the actual benefits have much more to do with your overall well-being and mental health.

If nothing else, one of the best things about practicing yoga is that it allows you to take a moment of quiet just be at peace with yourself and your surroundings. If you take a 45-minute yoga class a few days a week, that adds up to a few hours every week during which you have just allowed yourself to RELAX. It’s a moment to focus on what makes you feel good about being you. Even if you start yoga with feelings of inadequacy or doubts about whether or not you can keep up with the class, you will always finish yoga feeling stronger and much more appreciative of yourself. Even if you don’t feel like you got any of the poses or movements correct, the goal is that you will leave feeling satisfied at having tried it. And, you’ll have taken an hour to meditate on the development and relaxation of your physical and mental being.

(More thoughts, after the jump)

Okay, so what the heck does it mean that yoga gives you time “to meditate on the development and relaxation of your physical and mental being?” Well, if we were going to do an analytic exposition of this statement….just kidding. In my experience, another huge benefit of practicing yoga is that you become much more aware of your body, its capabilities, and its needs. Taking a few hours every week to tune into your body is something that can have outstanding long-lasting benefits. During MAPH especially, it’s really easy to keep your physical needs on the back burner. Feeling like you just need to push through a paper or a reading assignment…and consequently ignoring your well-being to do it. You’ve all done this. Shaved off a few hours of sleep in order to pound out a paper. Skipped breakfast to get to the library before class. These are things that can really throw off your body’s equilibrium and yoga will help you become aware of what your body needs so it becomes harder to ignore the important things. Maybe you’ve been getting headaches for the last few weeks or have had serious back pain since the start of winter quarter. News flash: these are probably related to stress. Stretching out your muscles and taking the time to recognize where your body needs attention can help relieve major tension.

And finally, while yoga may not ever allow you to do what the man in this picture is doing, it will help you build strength and will make you feel stronger and more limber. Basic hatha yoga, which is the strain of yoga most predominant in the United States, will stretch and build the strength of your muscles. The first time you do yoga it will be hard. But that’s no reason to avoid it. Your body has never moved this way before and you’ll use muscles that you didn’t even know existed. The next day you will probably be pretty sore. But, you will feel so good when you lie back to meditate for a few moments at the end of class and you will leave feeling relaxed and powerful. It may even give you that boost of energy you need to head back to the library and get a few more pages written afterwards. If you decide to keep practicing, consistent yoga will allow you to build strength in those unfamiliar muscles and will make you increasingly limber. Maybe one day you actually will be able to do what this odd looking man is doing…

If you didn’t already get this out of my preach-y blog post, I think yoga has outstanding benefits and it’s one of the most perfect things for MAPHers to do. It’s relaxing, while still being a good work-out, and it gives you time to slough off the anxieties and stresses of the program and just focus on taking care of yourself. Besides, free yoga classes are UNHEARD of these days. So, if nothing else, here’s a chance to try yoga without having to pay lots and lots of money to do it. I’ll be there downward-dogging it up and I hope I’ll see lots of you, too!

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