The word “yoga” comes with a lot of assumption. Whether you hear the word and think of free-spirited 20-year-olds with beads in their hair or a group of middle aged soccer moms hitting a class before brunch, the word has some baggage. It’s a shame that the beautiful practice of yoga has lost it’s true meaning to the general public. Yoga is called a “practice” rather than a workout for a reason.
So, is yoga just overpriced stretching? The narrative the Western world has painted has left many people thinking that’s the case but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yoga, practiced in its true form, is so much more than a little stretching and a light workout.
Connection to Breath
The conscious effort to connect your breath to every movement is yoga’s thesis statement. Connecting the breath to each movement allows you to stay present throughout the practice and reach deep into your energy. You’re able to channel different energy within yourself depending on your breathwork throughout the sequence and connect your mind and body. The connection of breath separates yoga from stretching because it creates a consciousness to the flow that stretching just doesn’t possess.
If you’ve done a Power Flow class, you know first hand that yoga is not an easy task. While moving through a sequence, there are times in which you are stretching but you are simultaneously strengthening your muscles. Holding a deep stretch activates your muscles and flowing from one posture to the next develops strength.
As previously explained, the practice of yoga is directly related to the connection of movement to breath. In order to flow, you need to be mindful throughout the entire practice of moving with your breath and staying in the present moment. When you arrive to a class and lay on your mat, you’re meant to be mindful of only the present and leave your stress of the past and future at the door. As you move through the sequence, staying mindful of the way you feel with every position keeps your mind and body connected. If yoga were really “just stretching” your mind wandering wouldn’t be of concern in the slightest.
Flowing through practice in-studio (or virtually) allows you to connect your energy with everyone in the room. The energy exchange that occurs during a practice feeds your soul and lifts you up throughout the class. Whether it’s the energy in a Yin class that mellows you out and allows you to connect deep within or the energy in a Power Flow class that boosts your energy and allows you to reach new milestones, the energy transfer is powerful. A yoga practice is a very intimate experience and sharing that with a group forms a deep connection between everyone, even if it’s just for 75 minutes.
Ultimately, it’s evident that yoga is more than just an expensive stretching session. It has been practiced for thousands of years, holds cultural significance, is a meditative experience and a strengthening tool.