Yoga involves a lot of stretching. So a lot of people think yoga is stretching. Organised stretching, occasionally accompanied by music, or chanting, but still stretching.
This raises the question: why buy a mat, special clothes, and spend time and money getting to a studio for yoga when you could just stretch?
As someone who came to yoga later in life, after a career in dancing, I have done all kinds of stretching and exercises regimes. The difference with yoga, is it is designed to stretched you body and mind. Remember, yoga means “unity”. Yogis practiced the physical postures in order to achieve deeper states of meditation.
Yoga was never just about being able to touch your toes, or do the splits, it was about challenging mind and body to be more open and flexible.
In the West yoga is not as deeply rooted in spirituality. Some styles or teachers focus more on the mind and spirit element; many treat it like an exercise class, so students are not aware of the history and spiritual element of yoga.
Teaching or doing yoga purely for the physical benefits is fine, but it only gives you a part of the whole picture. Yoga is a practice that includes mental, intellectual, spiritual, and physical elements.
When you go to a studio, or roll out your mat at home to do sun salutations, you’re not just stretching your physical body, you are creating space in your heart and mind. The more you do this, the greater the flexibility you’ll find towards all the challenges of life.
If that’s not worth devoting time to, I don’t know what is!
How does yoga stretch you? Share in the comments.