Yoga is a philosophy, an exercise, a way of life and many other things to many people.
It has become so massive and widespread that, sometimes, it can feel like a culture.
Fitness-wise, there are many benefits to yoga.
Danielle Wadsworth, associate professor in the School of Kinesiology, points out the physical benefits are similar to what one may see with other forms of exercise, such as increased energy, strength, endurance and better range of motion.
Wadsworth noted that yoga can also reduce blood pressure, reduce cardiovascular risk and enhance mental health.
Donna Dickey, a personal yoga instructor at the YMCA and Breeze Yoga Studio in Pensacola, said yoga can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression because it helps people focus on the mind-body connection and staying centered.
“It’s just a kind, gentle way to treat yourself both mentally and physically,” said Pam Wiggins, a yoga instructor at the Auburn University Recreation and Wellness Center.
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However, there is one issue that both Wadsworth and Dickey pointed out regarding yoga.
They explained people tend to push themselves too hard and can get injured during yoga.
Both stressed the importance of understanding your body and your limitations.
As a yoga instructor, Dickey considers herself more of a guide than a teacher.
She explained that her job is to guide people through the poses, but the individual is the true teacher because they know their body and how to work with it.
Yoga can come in many different styles.
Wadsworth said some common styles are vinyasa yoga, which focuses on the flow into poses; kundalini, which focuses more on breath patterns; aerial yoga; restorative yoga, which is more recovery based and focuses on relaxation, and Bikram, which is known as hot box yoga.
Dickey discussed yin yoga, one of the yoga styles that she teaches, which focuses on holding poses, deepening strength and stretching.
She noted this style may be especially helpful for those who do intense workouts to help release the tension in their bodies.
Wadsworth explained that the reason for many different styles existing is because they are different interpretations of one philosophy.
In India, the philosophy was founded around 200 B.C. by a man named Patanjali. The principles are described in “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.”
In his work, he discusses the eight limbs of yoga. Wiggins described these limbs as a guide to life.
“In India they taught me in my training that yoga is not a religion,” Dickey said.
She said yoga is not just an exercise, either. While there is an exercise aspect, she said there’s more to it than just that.
“I feel like it’s different for everyone,” Dickey said. “You know, it can be a spiritual experience for people, but then you don’t have to be spiritual to do yoga. You could do yoga and not be spiritual.”
Since there are so many different forms of yoga, Dickey, Wadsworth and Wiggins all encourage people to try and explore yoga in different ways. Wiggins described yoga as an exploration and a journey.
It takes time and some trial and error to find the right fit, but they all agree it’s out there.
“I do think yoga is one of the types of exercise that is for everyone,” Wadsworth said. “We do it with kids. We do it with families. We do it with pregnant people. We do it with older adults. Everyone can enjoy some form of it, and I think that’s another reason it’s very beneficial; it’s inclusive of everyone.”
Wiggins discusses going to different yoga classes in different parts of the country and even some out of the country, but she observed that they share similarities. Wiggins describes yoga as almost being universal.
“On the whole, you are going to find a group of people who are very interested in maintaining peace, love and happiness,” Wiggins said.
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