Driving my brother my bro’s old Ambassador the other day, I found myself getting sweaty – no power-steering and windows that you have to roll up manually. Granted it was a hot day but my wet clothes made me realise how in white-collared India life is geared towards just not moving our limbs. Everything is either a click away or at the push of a button!
We drive to work and then we spend the major part of the day at a desk or at a computer. Back at the home we’ve hired domestic help to do grunt work. Machines can wash our clothes, clean our floors and chop and dice our food. Our body is capable of such a variety of movement yet we do little apart from sitting up and down and get out of bed of-course.
Drawers seal shut, hinges rust, metals tarnish and batteries loose their charge – yet we continue to exalt in a lifestyle that enourages complete disuse of the body, oblivious to the age-old fact that what we don’t use we loose. Immobility becomes chronic and we reach a point where our physical and mental health suffers.
Often I get students who after half a life of non-movement come to yoga and they mistake the benefits of finally getting that gargantuan mass to move, to with what yoga is! Students, teachers and the promoters of yoga are responsible for a gross oversimplification; where yoga is seen as exercise or as a substitute to it.
which does justice to neither.
Even a comparison of the physical effects of both shows markedly different effects.
Yoga works on the organic body i.e the organ systems including the spine and nervous system. It acts as a “lubricating routine” for the muscles, bones and ligaments. It stimulates and balances the endocrine system, regulating our hormones thus keeping our moods and urges in check. It prepares the body for the experience of meditation and in that it is a tool for expansion of consciousness.
Exercise on the other hand has more outwardly and simpler goals. Weight loss and fat burning are among the top followed by body sculpting, increased strength and speed, endorphin release, toxin removal and so on.
Exercise is often competitive yoga is not.
Exercise does remain the more efficient way (quicker, faster) to loose weight and get a body of a desired shape. Walking , skipping, running, jogging or weight training- will get you to burn that fat much quicker than yoga asana will but the doozy is if you get fit with yoga it’ll take longer but you’ll stay fit longer.
Yoga is undeniably physical but it’s also so much more. A healthy body, weight-loss, muscular development, correcting ones posture- are by-products of practice but they aren’t the ultimate goal of yoga. Yoga was devised as tool a tool of self develpoment with the laudable goal of expansion of consciousness.
The Sivananda school says ” you access the body to access the mind”. A perfectly shaped bum might be the product of going to yoga classes but it wasn’t what rishis and munis meditated for years to achieve. Which does not mean you shouldn’t practice yoga for the physical benefits, just that an awareness needs to be there that it’s a deeper system.
As teachers, in our attempt to make it palateable or market friendly and to cater students who want fad bodies- we begin to dilute age-old sequences so that a “yoga” class starts to look like aerobics or acrobatics/ As much as power yoga enthusiasts would have you believe – power yoga is not yoga.At most it is a diluted version of the real deal.
I’ll end by saying yoga is not for not for everyone. You have to choose a system according to your mood, lifestyle and temprament. Common sense dictates that some people are better suited to punching bags than yoga mats and vice versa. Because something is “golden” doesn’t mean its the best fit for you.
It’s akin to miracle foods. Ofcourse your vegetables are good for you but some people will just be happier eating meat and potatoes.