Absolutely. Exercising is a vast field. The dictionary defines exercise as “activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness”. It is also defined as “a process or activity carried out for a specific purpose, especially one concerned with a specified area or skill”. When we practice Yoga, we are applying physical effort for its positive effects on our health and fitness. With reference to the second definition: Many who practice Yoga consider it a ‘purposeful activity’ and it’s certainly specific to unique skill sets. Each practitioner has their own why: their purpose for showing up to the mat, over and over again. Yoga is exercise, and it’s much more than that. It is the integrating of mindfulness, spirituality, and exercise. We practice deepening our awareness of our breath and body. We get out of our heads and into our hearts. We feel more deeply connected to ourselves and therefore each other. We feel the strength of our community around us. Yoga is exercise, and much more than that.
If you’ve been to a Yoga class, you know it’s exercise. You are definitely exerting yourself. It’s a unique exertion when compared to running, lifting weights, basketball, or any other form of exercise. Yoga uniquely utilizes both stillness and movement. As we practice, we mindfully move and mindfully breathe. Yoga embodies a vast network of asanas (postures) in particular sequences that thoroughly exercise the physical body. There is so much depth, variety, and nuance within Yoga, every nook and cranny of the body gets accounted for overtime. This is its power. Yoga awakens the neglected, distorted aspects of our body. As we mindfully exercise, we support the body into its natural state of balance, well-being, strength, and alignment. Speaking from personal experience, some of the most intense workouts of my life have been on my yoga mat.
It’s valuable to remain open-minded about how we’re defining exercise. When we practice Yoga, we are also exercising mentally and emotionally. The mind and body are intimately connected. they are perpetually mirroring each other. As we move, breathe, stretch, and arrive in stillness, each is directly impacting our mind and state of consciousness. Mind, body, and awareness are always working with reference to the state of each other. As we move our bodies and breathe into particular asanas, the body gets to teach the mind: ‘I am powerful. I am worthy. I am strong. I am capable. I am fulfilled. I am light. I am balanced’. I am surrendered.’ Our physical poses send a powerful message to the mind and heart. They are statements of identity and connection to Self. While our minds constantly pendulum from past to future, Yoga teaches Presence through body and breath.
Yoga provides valuable opportunities for exercising our emotions. When I say exercise, I really mean process. While we don’t generally focus on our emotions during practice, we find that they get processed through our practice. Emotions carry energetic weight. When we practice yoga, we optimize our mind/body/nervous system to release the weight that is no longer serving our well-being and evolution in the present. This release process creates space for repair, rejuvenation, and restoration. As we cleanse ourselves of negative emotion, we naturally connect to our inherent emotional states of love, bliss, wellbeing, balance, groundedness, and courage. These inner experiences are better described as qualities of consciousness, rather than emotions. These are qualities that naturally emanate when we are connected to the essence of our Being. More on that later <3