I started doing yoga 32 years ago, when I turned 30 and was trying to give up smoking. After I started doing yoga, I was able to stop smoking in one day and never, ever looked back. I realized then that there was something pretty amazing about the practice. After 5 years I became a yoga teacher and have been teaching now for 27 years.
In addition to teaching yoga, I have also been a visual artist for about the same amount of time. I began to notice, early on in my teaching and yoga practice, that many of the people I was encountering in yoga classes and as students, were also artists of all kinds. Since artists tend to be a bit outside the mainstream culture and more experimental, it seemed logical that they would be willing to try esoteric practices. But what attracted them specifically to yoga?
Over time I realized that artists were attracted to yoga because they were intuiting its potential to expand their creativity. Practicing yoga opens up creative capacity and unblocks regressive mental attitudes. This aspect of yoga is not talked about much but it is very profound. On a biological level, creative work increases blood flow to the brain and triggers the same sort of positive changes in brain chemistry found from doing meditation. Yoga is like a moving meditation, so the relationship between the two became very clear to me.
Many times, while I was trying to solve a problem I was having with a painting or something I was writing, or a life issue, the answer would come to me walking home from taking a yoga class. I've heard this same thing from many others as well. An answer pops up during or after a yoga practice. Yoga stiumlates the unconscious and creativity.
Creativity is a very broad force in all human life. It is not the specialzed "talent" or "skill" that most people think it is. Rather, it is much more a habit of mind and affects every area of our lives.It gives people a way of reimagining their circumstances, relationships, situation in life, and emotional state. It is a source of optimism and hope. You don't have to be an "artist" to appreciate the advantages of being a creative person. Being creative is a way of staying in tune with change and of being able to adapt successfully to life’s curve balls.
So, in addition to the physical health and relaxation benefits you hear so much about, yoga has a powerful benefit, maybe it's most important benefit, in it's ability to enhance creativity. This has been one of my greatest realizations about what yoga does for me.
I practice a form of yoga known as Astanga yoga. It is the most difficult form physically and I find that the physical challange keeps my mind focused on my breath and my attention firmly fixed in the moment, so it is like a moving meditation practice. For me, yoga forms that are too slow and easy allow my mind to wander and become unfocused. Since it is not appropriate for most people, it's just too hard, I do not teach Astanga. I teach an excerpted form but one that is challanging enough to keep students focused and in the present moment.
Yoga is a non-verbal experience that stimulates one's intuitive nature, opens the mind, increases awareness and composure. In addition yoga provides a myriad of health benefits, such as: stabilizes blood pressure, builds lean muscle mass, enhances balance,increases range of motion, strength and flexibility. It also increases concentration, calmness and feelings of contentment at the same time that it teaches self-awareness, self-knowledge and compassion.
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