Yoga, as my teachers here are explaining in detail, is not just a workout, something to do a few times a week, getting yourself sweating and panting, before you indulge in some heavy food, alcohol and selfish living. Yoga is a way of life (1. yama), self discipline (2. niyama), physical postures (3. asana), breathing (4. pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (5. pratyahara), concentration (6. dharana), meditation (7. dhyan), and the super conscious mind (8. samadhi). Where the first 4 can be related to the external, or bahiranga yoga. The last 4 are internal focused, antaranga yoga. Don’t worry, to be honest, I had no idea about all of this as well. But now, after some thorough explanations from our philosophy teacher it does make sense. Correct and focussed breathing will ease your postures so you can hold them longer, holding postures will make your body more flexible, which will help you in meditation. Preparing your body to sit in the same position for a long time. The little wisdoms of life. An interconnectedness of the physical with the spiritual. The external with the internal.
To bring this a little further, during our anatomy classes the human body is explained in detail. And here is where it got even more interesting for me. As I have been working in front of a laptop for the last 6 years for about 10 hours a day, I can say I have clocked a huge amount of screen time. Not to speak of the time I am looking at my phone. And im not alone here. When I used to look around the office I was working at, I saw humps and bumps in backs, squinting, tensed and shrugged shoulders.
The human spine has an S shape, with 4 curves for stability and strength. With a simple calculation* we can say that when we are standing upright, and have these 4 curves, our spine is 17 times stronger than it would be without any curves. Now imaging when you are sitting, you will have 2 curves left, leaving your spine only 5 times stronger. Got it? Now imagine you are sitting and holding your phone and slightly bending your head forward to look at the screen…only 1 curve left, leaving your spine less strong and more vulnerable, causing that nasty lower back pain after a long day in the office.
Following your spine down we can find the psoas muscle, responsible for the flexion in the hip joint. Also called muscle of the soul, emotions and breath. Why? This muscle will shrink in length when we get older (opposed from other muscles that shrink in thickness), but also because of our (sitting) lifestyle. When this muscle gets tight, it pulls down your diaphragm causing shallow breath which in turn works on your emotions. When we are sitting behind our desk the whole day, this muscle will contract faster, effecting your emotions, and it can even lead to anxiety, fear and depression.
Combining the anatomical, physical, spiritual and philosophical. You are more than a body. You, all of you, will be in balance once you can connect and develop all parts of you. Internally and externally. Physical, mental, and spiritual.
*Strength of spine = n2 + 1 (where n is the number of curves)