Is there a greater purpose to yoga?

During a yoga class, we twist and turn, go upside down, stretch, flex, and everything in between. But is there a greater purpose to yoga? We show up and commit for a reason. For many it’s to spark a greater awareness of mind and body and a deeper connection between the two. For others, it’s to make us easier to be around, or rather suck less, so to speak.

How we move and breathe defines our behavior and is often a reflection of our mental state. For example, a hurried and shallow breath denotes stress, where a deeper one indicates rest, or calm. The trick is to observe this without judgement, which allows further exploration into how each individual reacts to each situation, in this case physical postures. This is one of the reasons yoga is called a science. It’s a practice that allows us to observe the bodily and mental reactions to different stimuli in a controlled environment.

While practicing yoga, I become abundantly aware of how connected mind, body, and breath are in each asana, every transition, and also during breathing meditation. This cultivated awareness allows me to pay closer attention to how I move and breathe in daily life. It also has the added benefit of making me less of an asshole throughout the day.

By challenging all three components (mind, body, and breath) to work together and do something seemingly impossible, a goal is unconsciously set. Over time and through practice, yoga helps work toward that goal. Once accomplished, this achieved goal sends a trigger throughout the whole body that dissolves the previous notion of “impossible.” In essence, “no” turns into “yes,” judgment into acceptance, and fear into love. It begins through the conscious control and observation of the breath.

greater purpose to yoga

Greater purpose to yoga

Yoga, as we know it, is practiced on the mat, but the true benefits and greater purpose to yoga and the practice extend beyond the yoga room. What I learn about my reactions to mind, body, and breath on the mat also has a tangible result in how I move and breathe in every day life.

A complete awareness of my behavior, actions, challenges, strengths provide a deeper sense of wholeness and gratitude. It offers an opportunity to approach life through the lens of unity. Yoga, after all, means “to yoke,” or union. Yoga doesn’t connect mind to body through the breath, but rather allows practitioners to see that the two were never disconnected from the start.

The unconscious goal setting and subsequent accomplishing becomes a natural and steady rhythm of progress both on and off the mat. Progress, as it goes, has a direct result in making people happy. We are happiest when we see continual improvement or growth. This can also be explained in that cute and cliched quotation, “It’s the journey, not the destination.”

The practice invites each practitioner to create, find, or add space for whatever it is that is needed or wanted. It also allows the space to discover what those needs and wants are. It teaches how to live, how to grow, and how the body and mind, together, approach challenges – physical and mental.

The body is in a constant state of motion, even in meditation and savasana {corpse pose, a resting posture). Cells are living, dying, dividing, all while processes and systems are functioning. The body is made up of bone, muscle, water, organs, and billions of microorganisms depending on you for life. It moves constantly, whether we are aware of it or not. Yoga is a healthy method of adding a lens to these internal workings. Best of all, it is a practical method to attain a peaceful state of mind in varying walks of life.

Be less of a crappy human

So how does yoga make people suck less?

The greater purpose to yoga, at least for me, is helping to facilitate my own self care and a sense of who I am. I don’t believe anyone actually wants to be a jerk. It’s merely the outcome of poor self-care. Practicing yoga aides in my own self-care. If I’m well-taken care of, I’m happier and thereby, a better human to each and every one of you.

Everything in my practice breaks down into stimulus/response. I may not always be able to change the stimulus (or situation), but I can always change my response and reaction to it. This makes me a more compassionate person.

All I have to do is show up to the mat. It’s that simple… and that difficult.

Like all journeys, yoga is a challenge. But as I wake up and meet the challenge of each day, I can also make space for mind, body, and breath to unify by just showing up. Maybe it’s not for ourselves that we show up. Maybe there’s a greater purpose to yoga and making the commitment to keep coming back.

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