I hear countless conversations, read articles and hear lectures about how yoga is not just a physical exercise system. We’ve all heard them. We’ve even said such things ourselves.
Still, it’s a hard habit to break, that is, considering yoga as a way to improve fitness, flexibility, and strength. Of course, those are great benefits that asana practice (postures) provides.
However, it’s far easier for me to go into the Yoga Shed to do an asana practice than sit down and do pranayama (yoga breathing) and meditation. Sometimes I even have to make myself do savasana. Those all provide great benefits, too.
Nevertheless, I keep grappling with the question of why I do yoga, and my best answer these days is that I want to settle my mind so that I am not reactive – an aim that’s best addressed by practising relaxation, pranayama and meditation.
I love exercise. Besides my asana practice, I do a program of abdominal exercises and weight training two or three times a week, all of which make me feel and look good.
Out in the garden this afternoon, armed with a mattock, I attacked a rocky clay bank to plant some bromeliads. I was glad for my strong arms, abs, and back. Any post-gardening strain was relieved by some remedial yoga poses.
Here’s one of my favourites after-planting stretches: