COLUMN: Some like it hot – Mind, body and the ‘yoga union’

In Columns, Fitness, Sports

“Blessed are the Flexible for they Shall Not be Bent out of Shape”- Unknown

The word “yoga” when translated from its original Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, from where the practice stems, literally means “union”. It’s a union because the practice of yoga, is meant to align the body, mind and spirit, through a combination of concentrated breathing and posture movements.The practice of posture and physical poses are known as “Asana.”

All of these elements sync up to create a feeling of fusion and harmony between the brain and the body, allowing the mind to quiet and the body to destress.

By week four of my hot yoga journey, I was beginning to do just that. I felt as though my 210 minutes of yoga weekly were really starting to pay off and my body and mind were starting to reap the rewards through this positive physical readjustment.

The once unforgiving heat of the room was actually starting to feel quite welcoming to me instead of it feeling just muggy and unbearable. I had learned to appreciate the hotness, realizing that it is essential to warm the muscles and to gear up the body for exercise.

The heat seems vital to achieving Asana and I could feel my breathing in the still insanely humid room starting to stabilize. I felt as though I was able to “send the breath,” a term it seems all yoga instructors like to say, to the parts of my body that needed aid.

This helped me to stick more difficult poses like the “stick pose” or Tuladandasana and “eagle pose” or Garudasana. As beads of sweat hit my yoga mat, I was truly starting to feel the benefits that yoga promises. I was gaining more flexibility, increasing my strength and my “mind chatter” was truly starting to quiet.

I’m not alone in this feeling. According to a study released by Yoga Journal in 2012, about 8.7 percent or 20.4 million people in the U.S. practice yoga, and about 78.3 percent stated that their reason for starting yoga was to increase flexibility. 62.2 percent said it was for general conditioning purposes and 59.6 percent said it was to decrease stress levels.

Like millions of other yogis out there, I was on my way to truly understanding that “yoga union” term, feeling more confident each day with my body. I had also lost about four pounds, helping me to gain some strides in my weight loss goal.

But just as soon as I was getting my yoga groove back, midterms hit.

With massive amounts of term papers due, countless Daily Titan story deadlines to meet and a full-time job that’s littered with obligations, I was starting to crack and the zen slipped right out of my body. Instead of taking these stresses to my purple yoga mat and sweating them out, I retreated to my old bad habit of simply freaking out.

I skipped a week and a half of yoga and got sick. Like coughing, sneezing, sore throat, stuffy nose, sick. This combination was my body’s way of telling me I shouldn’t take life’s stresses out by ignoring my yoga mat and sidelining my new love of the practice. Gentle exercise boosts the immune system when sick and definitely eases stress tension, but I ignored that. Old habits die hard.

If I hadn’t freaked out, I may have not gotten sick. Although there is no way to scientifically prove this, bodies react in different ways.

I feel like I know my body, however stress does a number on the body and yoga aims to reduces those stresses.The achiness I had felt before I started my yoga regiment was coming back with a vengeance. My back was tweaking, I was feeling lazy and lethargic again and my overall concern for my health and fitness was dissolving quickly. It was also starting to show.

Buddha said, “The mind is everything, what you think, you become.” I was thinking like a stressed out crazy person, trying to be everywhere and do everything at once. Likewise, my body was starting to do crazy things and was shutting down.

As a wannabe hot yoga goddess, this bad yogi behavior simply will not fly. I realized where the root of my body breakdown was coming from, grabbed my yoga mat, and headed for class that day.

Although I did feel a few steps behind from where I had left off of my yoga practice, before the week and a half from hell, it was good to be back and breathing through the postures and life pressures instead. It’s important to clear the mind and focus on what we can control. Due dates and deadlines are forces to be reckoned with, but they shouldn’t get in the way of the mind’s time to reconnect with the body.

I realized that the “union” that is yoga, is really just that. Your body needs the mind just as much as the mind needs the body. Instead of getting bent out of shape over life’s dramas, which will come and go, it’s better to get bent back into shape on a yoga mat and just let it go.

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