Yoga Therapy as a Call to Personal Action
Traditional yoga practices offer a set of guidelines for fulfilling one’s potential, known as self-realization. People who choose to fully engage in this process use these structures as a mechanism for deeper levels of self-understanding. It starts with learning how to slow down and be less reactive and more capable of paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. This awareness allows them to identify and eventually implement yoga practices that will help forge healthy mind–body connections.
As you gain new layers of self-awareness and understanding, yoga also offers tools to deconstruct your belief systems, see where your habits hurt or help, and understand the different yet interconnected layers of your reality. Yoga teaches that although you might not always be able to control the external environment, you do have a choice to differentiate your internal environment from your external one and with it, an opportunity to understand your habitual reactions to external stimulus. Instead of looking outside for external cues for how to behave, you can start to look within yourself for the power to make less reactionary and more conscious choices.
The perspectives on yoga therapy presented in this article are designed to support your active life. It offers a multitude of tools to help increase your awareness of how you think, feel, move, and act so that you can begin, get back to, or continue to enjoy the activities you love. You will learn how to integrate old and new habits so that you can choose optimal movements from a whole-person response, rather than simply reacting to what is happening outside of you.
Movement: A Key to Health and Longevity
Every activity that you do (or don’t do) affects your body and brain in some way. The choices that you make about your movement practices, diet, sleep habits, preventive health care, work–life balance, emotional health, relationships, and spirituality all have tremendous impact on your health and longevity.
Life is a cycle of activity and rest. When you are lucky, activity and rest flow together seamlessly, creating a sense of harmony and balance. It is a glorious day indeed when even the most mundane activity is imbued with a sense of purpose: each action executed with some combination of intention, mindfulness, energetic awareness, emotional intelligence, and physical vigor. Too little or too much activity can bring you out of balance, and you can feel fatigued, fragmented, overwhelmed, or stressed. When out of balance or operating on autopilot, you end up getting less pleasure from life in general.
Activity often enriches our life experiences. The World Sports Encyclopedia estimates that there are at least 8,000 indigenous sports and sporting games. With so many incredible sport and game options, it can be difficult to choose which to pursue. Beyond sports and games, are other activities that we associate with a well-lived life—taking walks, engaging with friends, playing with kids, traveling to new places, cooking tasty food, or pursuing creative activities such as painting, crafting, constructing or deconstructing, making music or dancing to its beat. It can be difficult to find the time for all of the activities we would like to have in our life.
Some activities are more alluring than others. What you find to be a pleasant activity (or not) depends on your natural gifts, disposition, upbringing, energy levels, attitudes toward life, and beliefs about work and effort. Of course, activities and the necessary balance of rest can vary greatly from person to person. Factors to consider include phase of life, physical condition, location, occupation, and most important, healthy energy levels.
The awareness that is born out of a personalized yoga therapy plan can touch on one or all of these areas; the potential really is that vast. And while the broad and comprehensive nature of yoga therapy is not the primary focus of this article, you can certainly pay attention to how introducing its mind–body movement practices affects these other aspects of your life. When you invite changes to the body, it is inevitable that new awareness will arise and that you will make related shifts in the mind and spirit as a result.