When I first started doing yoga, in the early 90's - it was a pretty nerdy thing to do. The studios were not fancy and the teachers were not dressed in $150 spandex outfits. The only requirement of their pants was that you could see their legs. Most of them wore very short pants that showed all the muscles and bones. They would get impatient, or downright angry, with you if you wore pants that were loose around the knees. How could they check if you were actually 'lifting your kneecaps" if you wore baggy pants? (So you'd pull your pants up and look extra-nerdy to expose your knees).
A pose would be worked on for what sometimes seemed like an eternity (you try being in trikonasana (triangle pose) for 5 minutes) and in the beginning of class you had to raise your hand if you were on your period. Then you'd be relaxing in subdabadakonasna (bound angle pose) while everyone else did inversions. If you told your friends that you were doing yoga then they weren't quite sure what that meant and if you told them; they'd likely think it was a bit odd.
We all know how that has all changed. Yoga has become as mainstream as organic potatoes and that can only be a good thing. Even the established medical community has embraced the tremendous health benefits of yoga. I have just been invited to teach Yoga Nidra at the U of M and the Mayo Clinic is promoting yoga as a means to 'fight stress, get fit and stay healthy'. The barriers between what was once considered 'New Age' and western based medicine are crumbling and it's no longer either or.
My family doctor, Dr. Kara Parker, is a Naturopath/MD who works at HCMC (Hennepin County Medical Center) and she has everything from bladderwrack and meditation to antibiotics and acupuncture up her sleeve. The one time that she has ever prescribed antibiotics, I feel confident that it was after exhausting every alternative method at her disposal.
All though the meaning and practice of yoga has become mightily diluted, it's still a good thing that yoga has been endorsed as a means to greater health. Even students that never dive into the Yoga Sutras and beyond, will experience amazing changes in their body and mind from doing yoga on a daily basis.
Here's words straight out of a Mayo article on the matter:
Stress reduction. A number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.
Improved fitness. Practicing yoga can lead to improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. And this means you're less likely to injure yourself in other physical endeavors or in your daily activities.
Management of chronic conditions. Yoga can help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga might also help alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.
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