Header image for the article Yoga: A way of life Credit: AJIITHA ANAND

When someone tells you to be active, most people think of building a healthy body. This is a misconception as having a healthy body is not the only thing that constitutes a healthy lifestyle; one must also have a peaceful mind and a content soul.

According to a Statistics Canada report, one out of four workers in Canada suffers from stress which can frequently add to the growing number of mental health cases in the world. There are organizations who can help people suffering from stress and other mental health illnesses, but one of the ways in which people can relax their body and ease their mind is with something that doesn’t involve any sort of medicine; people can ease their minds with yoga.

Yoga, although misconceived as just a form of physical exercise that is too slow for a lot of people’s liking, is a form of exercise that works towards not just achieving personal fitness goals, but also experiencing the movements and achieving equilibrium in the brain.

In the world of multitasking, our brains are trained to do the same. While we are watching a movie or talking to a friend, our brain subconsciously keeps wandering off to other things. However, are we really multitasking or is it just that our attention span has reduced drastically?

Instead of worrying about things that are not yet in our horizon, life should be made simpler by dealing with things that are right in front of us.

“The importance of ‘Asana’ albeit a physical posture in yoga is that you need to let all of the distractions go. You need to be focused on the here and now, where it’s actually happening to be able to hold your pose and I take that as a metaphor of the way I should lead my life,” said Dan Woodward, a yoga instructor and business professor at Fanshawe.

The idea of alignment is that, in a yoga pose, you try to get your body to position perfectly therefore intentionally introducing tension in your body. However, you learn to let go of the tension once in the pose. Yoga teaches us what it is like to hold on to tension and why you should let it go; yoga teaches you that tension does not help your posture and also does not help your mental health.

Failure or a possibility of failure is a major factor of stress in any individual. You learn that failing is a part of the process through yoga. Yoga poses cannot be perfected the first time, it can take months or years to master. Over time, you see the change in your body and see how the pose grows easier.

The practices participated in yoga become second nature in life, such as breathing steadily. This helps lead to a happier and less stressful life.

Yoga is referred to as a way of life because everything you learn from it can be applied to life.

Yoga has minimal side effects as an exercise form; in fact it is commonly used as a therapeutic exercise to recover from other injuries.

Various researchers around the world, including Harvard Health Center, have concluded yoga to be a good tool to cure mental health ailments such as anxiety, depression, stress and insomnia along with physical ailments such as body pains, sprains, blood pressure, asthma, arthritis and prevention of diabetes.

“When yoga first came to light, it was mainly practiced by men and this was the case for many years to follow. However, today women make up the majority of people who practice it. But with the peace and calm that yoga provides mentally and spiritually, imagine how different the world would be if more men started practicing yoga again,” Woodward said. “This is my life mission now; to get more men to practice yoga.”