What is Yoga?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are opposed to Yoga considering it a Demonic practice.  Because of this, I’ve always view Yoga and similar practices with skepticism. In early 2018 I watched the entire course on Yoga from “The great courses” which can also be purchased on DVD and found on Amazon. After watching I had an entirely new perspective on Yoga.

If you’re curious about yoga I feel like this is a great place to start.  I also recommend the book “Yoga Anatomy” by Leslie Kaminoff.  Both are great resources for understanding yoga from a western psychology perspective.

Let’s see… how do I explain yoga… Let’s start by talking about Stress. We all get stressed.  And there are physiological changes in the body associated with stress.  We tense our muscles and have quick shallow breathing.  We do it all the time and we don’t even realize it.

Now, this tension builds up and we carry it around physically.  We carry it in the neck, shoulders, back, legs.  We never loosen up.  In addition, the common haunched posture causes shallow breathing which further contributes to stress and body tension.

With Yoga, you stretch your muscles and release the tension.  You spend time increasing your awareness of physical sensations and build a connection with the body as you stretch and hold positions.  Another key part of Yoga is breathing.  While you stretch and fold your body you become aware of the breath. The different positions affect the diagram and the ability to breath.  Yoga helps you learn to breathe through the stress both when your doing yoga and when your not.

There is also the “spiritual side” of Yoga. Yoga is actually a branch of Hinduism.  Hinduism and traditional Yoga are complicated for my western fundamentalist mind.  It’s my understanding that the various poses are supposed to prepare an individual for sitting meditation. There is something called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which is sort of the bible of classical yoga. I have a copy of the text and I’ve skimmed it but it doesn’t interest me much. It seems in most American contexts when people are referring to Yoga they are just talking about the stretches and Hinduism may have very little to do with it.

I wasn’t enthused with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali BUT I do enjoy certain ideas that originate with Eastern Philosophy.  It seems that many concepts in Eastern Philosophy are shared between things like Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism etc.  I do feel that Eastern Philosophy has some great concepts and I will discuss them in a different post.

As a novice yoga practicer, I’m probably not doing it any of this any justice.  My point is though that if you haven’t tried yoga I suggest you do.  In addition to the recourses mentioned at the start of the post, I suggest checking out yoga Youtube Videos.  I fond of beginners yoga videos by Cole Chance from YogaTX.  Check it out.

Published by Ryan David Tuttle

PhD Graduate student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, Addiction, Stress, Behavioral Economics, and Individual Differences. Former member Ministerial Servant and Pioneer in a Spanish speaking congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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