1. Why do you think yoga has become so popular in the west lately? People are increasingly aware of the harmful effects of stress on their bodies and minds. Yoga offers a complete mind/body program to reduce stress, while enhancing flexibility, strength and balance. People practicing yoga quickly experience a deeper connection to their bodies with improved vitality.
2. How is yoga different from stretching? Yoga is stretching with awareness. Its a technology to enhance mind body integration. Using attention and intention, yoga provides benefits to the mind and body beyond that gained through the stretching of muscles.
3. How does yoga benefit the body? A perfect exercise program enhances flexibility, improves strength and increase cardiovascular fitness. Yoga is a powerful tool for enhancing flexibility and strength and can, through various specific sequences of postures called Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations), add to cardiovascular fitness. Scientific studies of yoga have shown that it can help relieve low back pain, arthritis and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. It can help people with asthma and chronic bronchitis breathe easier. It can normalize blood pressure and stabilize blood sugars.
4. How does yoga benefit the mind? We are seeing epidemics of depression, anxiety and drug addiction in our society as a result of disturbed thinking. In these challenging times, people perceive their environment as threatening, which triggers thoughts that disturb their enthusiasm for life. Scientific studies on the psychological benefits of yoga have repeatedly demonstrated that yoga can help relieve depression, lessen anxiety, reduce smoking, ease chronic pain, stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce the use of both prescription and nonprescription psychoactive drugs.
5. What makes yoga a spiritual practice? The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga cultivate integration between body, mind and soul. The body is comprised of molecules. The mind is composed of thoughts. Your soul is the silent ever-present witness to your physical and psychological experiences of life. The soul is not localized in time or space. It provides the continuity to your experience from the time you are born to the time you die. Yoga helps people create a new relationship between their body, mind and soul during a yoga session. The centered, balanced, comfortable state of body and mind achieved during the yoga practice stays with people as they respond to the daily demands of life.
7. Can yoga be helpful in healing from illness? All mental and physical illness is associated with stress. The physiology of stress leads to raised blood pressure, altered digestive function, anxious thoughts, and immune suppression. Yoga is a technology to reduce stress. The sensations of comfort and calm that people experience during yoga reflect the inner pharmacy of ecstasy. When we feel good, it is a result of our natural pharmacy producing endogenous pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety and immune modulating chemicals. Yoga provides access to our powerful inner healing pharmacy.
8. What are the seven spiritual laws as they apply to yoga? 1) The Law of Pure Potentiality in yoga reminds us that at every moment, we can make a choice to be happier, healthier and more loving. In the quiet space between poses, we are reminded of the Law of Pure Potentiality. 2) The Law of Giving and Receiving is expressed in the appropriate use of breath during yoga postures. The breath is the link between mind and body and between individuals and their environment. 3) The Law of Cause and Effect reminds us that each of our choices has consequences. The sensations in our body provide subtle clues as to the best choice. Yoga teaches us to listen to the signals of comfort and discomfort our body is sending. 4) The Law of Least Effort encourages us to use our life energy with impeccability. Yoga helps us remove the friction between our minds and bodies that wastes energy. 5) The Law of Intention and Desire teaches us to focus on the action that is likely to fulfill our desires rather than the fruits of our actions. Our yoga practice demonstrates how focusing on the sensations generated in a pose and surrendering into those sensations improves the performance of the yoga posture. 6) The Law of Detachment says that if we want something, we need to relinquish our attachment to the outcome. This principle along with the Law of Intention and Desire is key to a successful yoga practice and a successful life. 7) The Law of Dharma recognizes that everything has its unique purpose in life. Experiencing our unique way of performing yoga in practice reminds us to express our uniqueness in life.
You can get The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and David Simon M.D. (Wiley; 2004) at your local bookstore.