Neuroscience studies indicate the brain, mind, and body function together as a unified system. In the West we know yoga as postures and movements for strength and flexibility but the tradition includes much more. It is a disciplines with a host of tools to help us overcome suffering, to promote the healing of our bodies and minds, and to establish us in a rich and rewarding life.
As we move through all the natural stages of pains and pleasure in our lives, we can call upon the many tools of yoga to give us in a solid foundation of self-knowledge and trust so that we may find meaning as a motivating force. Three of the foundational tools for a transformational practice are breath, movement, and stillness. When used together and appropriately, these three techniques can help address immediate needs, but because they work at the root of many issues, they will become the basis of a life-long system of self-guidance and healing.
Many of us wonder why we feel stress or fatigue on a daily basis. We may be trapped in breathing patterns that keep us suspended in "fight or flight", where our body is not operating in an optimal manner. This robs us of the ability to perform at our best, and face our truth with clarity. Learning to breath properly is as vital to learning proper eating and exercise. Just as athletes use drills or musicians use scales, we can and should practice breathing properly so that during daily activity, athletic performance, or when we are faced with stress we can continue to work in our highest capacity (allostasis). This will not only keep our bodies more healthy, it will keep our minds at ease and focused while re-training our bodies to return to the optimal "rest and digest" phase rather than being constantly in a state of stress.
The way in which we move our bodies and the approach we use to it's movement may be more important than the activity itself. Crossfit, yoga asana, sports competition, walking, sitting, biking, cleaning -- whatever we do with our physical form, we should do it well. Are we struggling as we move, uselessly expending our mental and physical energy? Or do we know how to conserve and move in a way that helps us meet our life goals and enriches our lives? When learned properly, the movements and postures of yoga can teach us how to listen, feel and sense -- as well as shape the fundamentals of how we breath, sit, stand and move in our daily lives. Attitudes (calmness, courage, inner strength or flexibility) can be encouraged and adopted through the physical body first, and pave the way for positive shifts in our lives. Learn to fortify your body and mind with each action you take.
Moments of quiet and stillness offer us a chance to know ourselves better. Contemplative practices such as meditation and Mindfulness will enrich our lives with higher consciousness. The current popularity of these practices is not with merit; we live in a world of "consuming and doing" that may appear to us like a million shards of broken glass each day. When we find a ritual of contemplation, we can quiet the mind amidst the distractions and stress of everyday life. This calm can help us in developing meaning and purpose in our lives. We become more focused, with less stress, inspired and more empathetic to those around us.