For many people, the practice of yoga can seem like such a foreign thing. Every image most people have of it makes them believe that all it is about is stretching and folding yourself, and not getting much else done, but many do not that it emcompasses so much more that can grossly improve your mental and physical well being, whether used in part or as a whole.
We at Young Observer want to help demystify the tradition for you and help you discover how you can incorporate some of its principles into your daily life, to achieve mindfulness in a simple way.
We have spoken to local level 2 yoga instructor and licenced holistic healing therapist Gergentia ‘Brandy’ Shoombe to answer any questions you may have.
Firstly, what even is yoga?
Well, simply put, it is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practises or disciplines which originated in ancient India.
In the ancient Sanskrit text titled ‘The Bhagavad Gita’, it is referred to as “the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”.
According to Brandy – who runs the Oshana Yoga Project aimed at bringing the practice to marginalised groups – the benefits of doing yoga include finding balance.
“In this day and age there’s lots of stress and many demands in our lives. We are constantly in a rush, running through rush hours to get to work or drop kids off at school. Our lives are yearning for some sort of balance, and not to feel like we are being pulled in 100 directions,” she explains, adding that yoga can also help people be more present in their daily lives, as the intense breathwork and meditation that is required on the mat forces your mind to remain in the moment and awake.
“I help people access and discover new possibilities. I’m always asking: ‘What is possible for you right here, right now?’ to help them understand why they drift away,” she says.
Other gains Brandy can swear by, from her 12 years of practice, are plentiful. On the physical side, she says one will notice increased flexibility, muscle strength and tone, improved respiration, improved metabolism, weight reduction, improved athletic performance and an increase in energy levels. That isn’t all, however.
“We feel good after a yoga class. It can help with depression and anxiety, manage stress levels, give you a healthy body image, and increase calmness and peace.”
However, despite having such a positive impact on one’s wellbeing, the instructor who says that many people still have the wrong idea about what Yoga is exactly, and there can be many myths and misconceptions. But she is more than happy to debunk them all.
“People think that yoga is only for women, but it’s not. It was actually invented by men for men to help them cope during wars and battles, to aid them in keeping a sane mind that is in union with their body.”
She explains that people also think that yoga is religious when it is simply spiritual and they think that it is slow and easy when there are actually multiple types including Vinyasa during which you’ll work up quite a sweat.
Another false belief is that only super flexible people can take part, when anybody at any age and fitness level is capable. .
It is understandable however if people are intimidated by the physical aspect of yoga, but luckily for you, there are many ways that one can incorporate its principles into their lives to experience even just some of the benefits.
Getting oneself into the practice can be as simple as dedicating ten minutes of your day to learning the poses, stretches and accompanying breathwork that encourages one to live a more calm and wholesome existence.
Non-violence, gratitude, veganism, chastity, mindfulness and avoiding gambling and intoxication are also all major components of a yogi lifestyle.
“Being aware of the life flowing in and out of your body helps you practice meditation in that moment. By having compassion for people, listening attentively to others and being present are things that help us live in a positive vibration,” she says, adding that making a habit of connecting to one’s breath is a powerful tool people can use in their daily lives.