Why Do I Mess With Yoga?

Every day, I post up photos of my whiteboard on Instagram (@nicnakis). These are my workout logs, and sometimes they say something about Yoga.

What do I get out of Yoga and why have I been practicing it for 25 years?

Mental Practice

I guess it starts with learning: learning strange names and words and stories, and purported effects, as well learning about the things my body can do if I push it. I learned the names of some muscles and joints, but more importantly I learned what things felt like in different positions, I learned an instinctual awareness of my body in space. I love information and awareness, so these things tickled my mind from those teenaged days of flipping through garage-sale Yoga books my mom brought home.

The other mental aspect is about relaxation and settling the mind. Yoga practice involves putting aside everything else, emptying the mind of desires and reactions, and focusing only on the breath and the positions of the body. One of my favorite Yoga practices has always been Savasana, which is basically just lying on your back with your eyes closed and pretending that you’re dead. This is a meditative practice of relaxing all the nerves and muscles in the body, of ignoring negative thoughts, letting tension or pain or worry leave you and sink into the ground. Then you rise up again.

Physical Practice

I touched on a little bit of this above. Yoga helps create awareness around the various parts of your body and how they interact with one another. If you’re in a forward bend or sitting on the ground holding your toes, you can feel that the tissues from the feet along the back of the legs, up the back and all the way through the neck to the head are all connected. You notice if it was easier to do a pose on one side of the body than it was on the other side, so you spend more time on the difficult side to balance things out. You become aware of posture and its effects on your movement and how you feel.

In a manner of speaking, every Yoga pose is like an isometric and a stretch at the same time. Isometrics are holds; a type of muscular contractions that hold the muscle(s) at a set length, rather than lengthening or shortening them. Stretching is working up against the elasticity of the muscle. I look at Yoga poses as if there is always one set of muscles in an isometric hold (becoming stronger), while the opposite set of tissues is stretched to become more pliable and relaxed. This helps me increase stability and balance in my body, while also creating a greater sense of openness and mobility.

Spiritual Practice

The other piece with Yoga is the spiritual piece. Physical Yoga like I’m talking about is only one of many forms of Yoga. There is also a Yoga of chanting, a Yoga of eating, and the Yoga of being a King (Raja Yoga), amongst others. Yoga is considered to be a spiritual science, not a religion in itself, but a “science of religions.” The word “Yoga” itself means “to unite”, signifying the unity of the human being to the divine. This is felt when one is able to control their body, their mind, and their will, and realize their true self to be independent of these.

Control of the breath is a big part of this. I have found that Yoga breathing exercises have helped me learn how to modulate my moods, to be aware of energetic changes in my person, and to have some degree of control over them. Yoga breathing can be relaxing or stimulating. There are times when my breath-awareness helps me in an athletic endeavor. Other times it helps me to calm down or get to sleep, to focus, or to concentrate. This practice and the self-awareness it brings provides tools that help me live better and be a better person to others.

Published by nicnakis

Nicholas |nik-uh-luhs| n. a male given name: from Greek words meaning "victory of the people" John |jon| n. a male given name: from Hebrew Yohanan, derivative of Yehohanan "God has been gracious" Nakis |nah-kis| n. a Greek family name derived from the patronymic ending -akis (from Crete) Amha |am-hah| n. an Ethiopian given name meaning "gift", from Geez Selassie |suh-la-see| n. Ethiopian name meaning "trinity", from Geez

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