Yoga has become one of these topics that has been confused with the idea of stretching or fitness practices like Pilates. While yoga has a fitness component to it, it truly is much more than this. As yoga becomes more popular in the health industry, some are taking notice of how it can help people who are struggling with addiction or aging. We recently spoke with yoga teacher Kirsty Davis from Yoga Training Guide to get her thoughts about what yoga is and how it works, and here is what she had to say:
“Before talking about my approach to the physical approach to yoga, I would like to describe how yoga influences our well-being. Newborns are flexible and their bodies move easily. As we age, we lose our flexibility and tension builds up around the nerves, glands, in the circulatory system and the vertebral and energy systems.
The body then loses its efficiency; slowing down or blocking systems results in loss of energy. The body’s sensitivity decreases and we are less attentive to the messages it sends us. Since one of the fundamental dimensions of life is movement at all levels, the intrinsic quality of it is reduced.
The word “disease” literally means to suffer from “evil”. As the body becomes more “sore”, it begins to weaken. The yoga process helps keep physical systems receptive and strong to prevent debilitation and illness. Yoga also has invaluable therapeutic potential since postures are highly refined tools. Indeed, they allow us to access different bodily systems by very specific means and to bring endurance and healing. Yoga allows us to take control of our health.
In general, we only care about our health when it goes down. We do not have the interest or the ability to stay tuned for messages from various bodily systems until it is too late and our health deteriorates. Our practice can inform us of an initial energy drop and also provide us with the means to recover it. The power of yoga-related preventative measures is supported by the fact that our practice creates acuity to internal feedback, thus helping us to detect warning signs. We can then, through yoga, learn to heal ourselves long before our health deteriorates.
Although yoga is described as a “fountain of youth” since its practice brings us health and vitality, this is a myth. The search for eternal youth through magic, drugs or certain techniques indicates that we are resisting the aging process. I rather prefer “fountain of life” to describe yoga. The aging stage is inevitable and yoga allows us to approach it with clairvoyance and to consider it as a transformation process that can bring growth and deeper introspection. To resist aging is to oppose transformation and growth. Paradoxically, this refusal, which involves dependence on obsolete or inappropriate lifestyle habits, aggravates the aging process that we fear so much.
In yoga, we expose ourselves to the life and death process that is expressed by aging. Youth is the time of innocence when the body maintains and even automatically increases its reserve of energy. Then there comes a time when a reversal occurs, usually in their twenties or thirties. The body, then at the mercy of its own instruments, gradually begins to lose its vitality. This process does not happen by itself. We must fully and consciously confront the systematic closing tendencies adopted by our body (entropy). Yoga not only comes against the entropic process of deterioration but also allows us to open up in different ways to reach middle age with elegance, wisdom and ease.
Our morning practice allows us to quickly determine the behavior we adopted the previous day. We learn to spot the subtle differences in flexibility, endurance and energy. The body has its own intelligence. You have to know how to listen and learn from this intelligence which is an essential aspect of yoga. By staying tuned, we can align and correct our body structure by following our intuition to determine our needs.”