As the world situation degrades further into oppression, war and wanton environmental destruction, we need as many tools as possible to protect our physical and spiritual health and well-being. Rather than being in poor shape, in a lousy mood and frightened by every uncertainty, one can use the time we have now to strengthen and purify the body, balance the emotions, and sharpen the mind for more effective decision making. After all, what good is it to be alive if you cannot enjoy your days, even amidst such chaos and uncertainty?
Yoga is an excellent physical practice of exercise that involves stretching and relaxing the body while emphasizing deep, rhythmic breathing. Originally a Hindu practice for attaining deep levels of spiritual awareness, Yoga has become very accessible to Westerners; Yoga studios can be found in nearly every town, big or small, in America. Many people practice it solely for physical benefit, but over time, most people begin to realize the potential of Yoga as a means of becoming a more positive and satisfied person who is more likely to laugh at adversity and thrive where other find frustration and agitation.
Yoga can be practiced by anyone, young or old, big or small, fit or not, as it can be performed as a gentle restorative physical therapy, or as an intense and challenging form of exercise. Incorporating the practice of Yoga into your life is an excellent means of improving your likelihood of finding happiness, motivation and inspiration while developing immunity to the myriad negative things occurring in our world today.
Firstly, Yoga improves the condition of the whole body. Being in good physical shape positively affects every area of your life, and a body in atrophy is a recipe for disease, depression and anxiety. Through movement and stretching while focusing on deep, rhythmic breathing, Yoga engages not only the muscular system of the body, but also massages and refreshes the internal organs, dramatically enhancing your ability to purge the many toxic wastes found in our polluted environment. The lungs become very powerful by circulating large quantities of oxygen during Yoga practice, helping you to eliminate smog and other harmful garbage.
An improved body means greater immunity to disease, and less dependence on pharmaceuticals to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and depression. In fact, Yoga can actually help you kick anti-depressants or even street drug addictions as it refines and balances the hormones and nervous system while creating a deeper awareness of the body and its needs. Yoga is also an excellent compliment to other exercise programs like weight lifting or martial arts because it acts as a very thorough means of stretching and rehabilitating stressed out tissues, complimenting more physically rigorous exercise practices. Having more energy, more confidence in your abilities, and feeling light and limber will put you in a position to be able to help others during a crisis rather than being dependent on the help of others.
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Secondly, as a compliment to improved physical performance, Yoga improves the capacity of the intellect for making better decisions in frightening times. Sound decision making in difficult situations is critical, and one must be able to forgo emotional extremes and keep a cool head when faced with difficulty. Yoga brings the mind closer to its full potential by deeply engaging the mind in total concentration during practice.
The meditative quality of a Yoga practice acts as restoration and rehabilitation for the brain, and through this process an enhanced understanding of situations and purpose arises, allowing one to find more creative options and solutions. Through Yoga, one develops a keen sense of awareness of how the body is functioning and encourages better choices to support our natural drive for optimal health.
As an example, one’s diet tends to naturally evolve with regular Yoga practice and one’s inherent desire to eat more natural and higher quality foods in more appropriate proportions is awakened. This is especially important as a simple natural diet can be more affordable and is more easily reproduced at the local level should a disruption arise in our complex food system. Yoga will help you to make better decisions while supporting the mind’s ability to learn new concepts and skills in a time when old paradigms are changing and creative solutions are needed.
Finally, Yoga brings with it the ever-unfolding gift of greater spiritual awareness, inner strength and peace. Through this meditative practice one quickly finds a source of calm tranquility deep within that provides the strength to overcome the negative emotions of anger, violence, fear, and sexual compulsion. Our modern world is increasingly dominated by this negative energy and fear, and it seems we are told more and more to look at people and situations as ‘threats’ rather than challenges or opportunities. This cultural travesty leads people to view violence as a solution to problems. Yoga embodies non-violence and it offers a means to remedy this sad worldly condition by awakening the sense of mystery and awe within one’s heart and re-igniting one’s sense of self-respect, which in turn leads one to treat oneself and others with greater compassion.
Yoga requires that the body release physical tension and stress, which has a psychological counterpart as well, making it easier for one to let go of issues and states of the mind that are of no value to happiness or livelihood. Emotional attachments to physical things begin to loosen, the ego releases dated beliefs and ideas, and the sense of competition with our fellow man is replaced by a sense of universal abundance wherein survival becomes not something we fight for, but rather something that we love for. Being unattached to ideas, things and emotions is critical to living a fulfilling life in these complex times where everything is changing around us and none of our comforts can be taken for granted.
Having the peace and inner strength to let go willfully in frightening circumstance also gives us the courage and personal power to say ‘no’ in accordance with our conscience when the demands of society ask us to participate in warfare, our own oppression and group think. Yoga is a powerful means of elevating our consciousness at a time when great changes are needed to improve the condition of our world.
The joys and benefits of practicing Yoga are immeasurable and profoundly beautiful. One should consider this ancient practice as a powerful means of self-improvement and transformation at time when old ideas and institutions are demonstrating their monstrous failure in providing for the security and well-being of mankind. Yoga is peaceful personal revolution is the age of industrialized self-destruction.
Dylan Hunt is a Tai Chi and Chi Kung teacher and the proprietor of Pura Vida Yoga Vacations, which organizes Yoga retreats and vacations in peaceful Costa Rica.