Practices survive the test of time by proving their value through engendering meaningful change. Yoga is an ancient practice that does not need Western science to validate it. In fact Western research in many cases has had the disastrous effect of diluting and/or re-packaging yoga practices to strip them of their cultural heritage and nuances. With this in mind, we know that we are functioning in a world that often requires 'proof' and looking at the findings of science has helped us to encourage organisations to consider providing yoga classes for those who might need it the most, as well as supporting us to secure funding. We have also found it helpful at times to understand from our own Western 'maps' (such as anatomy, neurology and physiology) some of the changes that happen with yoga. We believe the deeper aspects of the practice are best understood through direct experience, scripture and guidance from teachers.
Yoga can help address bio-psycho-social-spiritual wellbeing & growth
Whilst these areas clearly overlap, we have attempted to summarise an overview of the potential benefits of a regular yoga practice.
Including increased: strength, flexibility, balance, sleep, awareness of body and its needs, ability to be active despite pain or other potential limitations, improved vagal tone and ability to activate parasympathetic nervous system (leading to a host of benefits such as healthy blood pressure) , promotes healthy eating habits, improved heart health
Including increased: ability to switch from activation to release and vice versa (regulation skills), attentional skills (e.g. ability to choose what to focus on and for how long), ability to work with breath to regulate current state, mastery & discipline leading to self-efficacy & self-esteem, untangling from tricky thoughts & feelings, lowering of anxious and depressive experiences
Including increased: activity, community engagement, interaction with others, developing a new facet of social identity, new support network, being part of something - finding 'our place in the family of things' (Mary Oliver), empowering - knowledge that we can all make a difference, motivation to address injustices through recognising common humanity
Including connection to: yogic philosophy, a sense of meaning, finding the beauty in even mundane or challenging experiences (the experiential world as an expression of the spiritual - Shiva-Shakti - all experiences are valuable), developing a sense of awe at our own embodied experience, finding peaceful moments outside of a 'self-story'