The Aim of Yoga
The aim of yoga is to rid oneself of pain, or chittavritti, which is a sanskrit word meaning when our physical state is unwell and leads to an imbalance in our mental state. This is done with both asanas (poses) and pranayama (breath work). Together these two practices target both the mind and body, recognizing the nervous system as a connection between the two. A regular yoga practice can relieve the body of dukha (sanskrit, meaning misery and pain).
Why is yoga important today?
The chaos of daily life, poor and unhealthy lifestyle habits and poor posture create stress in both the mind and the body, leading to the development of pain (both mental and physical), illness and disease. We are constantly over stimulated and in a state of fight or flight mode, leading us to neglect our true needs. The materialistic world we live in has created a disconnect between our true selves, the earth in which we reside and a lack of spiritual dimension. Through a sincere yogic practice we can put an end to mental and physical pain, illness and disease.
Yoga stimulates fresh blood flow through the body simultaneously creating calmness (counteracting the impact of stress) and alterness. A regular practice will lead you to looking at your life in a new light, with an open heart and an open mind and down the path to liberation and self-realization. This is the end goal for each and everyone one of us, whether we are consciously aware of it or not.
(This feeling of ultimate freedom is often referred to using many different terms like samadhi, enlightenment, kundalini awakening, etc.)
How to Start A Yoga Practice
Although yoga is not yoga without the breath, it is important to begin a practice with the asanas or poses. Once you can achieve the proper posture in basic asanas, you should then begin to focus on the breath. To put it simply, think of a time you have tried a new activity, as you are focusing on mastering that activity without effort, you may forget to breath or at the least, become unaware of your breath. Once you are able to come into an asana without thought, you can then bring your attention to the breath instead.
The best advice I can give to begin to learn these asanas properly is to not do it alone. It is easy to look at a pose and try to replicate it but in doing so you are likely to miss some important alignment cues, which can lead to strain and injury. Group classes will allow you to receive general verbal adjustments and sometimes specific physical adjustments. Working one-on-one with a teacher will allow you to receive both verbal and physical adjustments that are tailored to your specific needs. (Inquire about my group and private classes by filling out a contact form here.) I also recommend starting your own practice at home while taking classes. It may be overwhelming on your own at first and may detour you from having a home practice, but practicing simple asanas that you have learned from a teacher on your own and with online yoga classes (like this one) will allow you to advance in your practice even more and begin to see results in your well-being sooner. Hold yourself accountable. Your health and happiness is in your hands!
I also recommend beginning a mediation practice. This will allow you to learn pranayama or breath work separate from the asanas. This will make it easier to incorporate the two once you begin to have a general understanding of each. Start with a few minutes of meditation when you wake up, before bed and before beginning your practice each day. Here are two free meditations to help you begin: Grounding and Gratitude Meditation from Eat. Feel. Live., Guided Relaxation Body Scan from Mindful Yoga with Ryan. Meditation classes are often offered at yoga studios as well, although this is not always the case in the west (we have put way more emphasis on the physical aspect of yoga), but this is where you will really begin to heal your mind.
Yoga is the path to ultimate health of the mind, body and soul. Adding this ancient practice to your life is the solution to all pain and suffering.