Why Yoga? Health and Mindfulness

An interview with yoga Instructor and PhD student, Evie Wright

Imogen Clarke
13th June 2022
Image: Instagram @eviewyoga

First things first, what is yoga?

Asana (physical postures) form just one limb on the Eightfold Path of yoga sutras, even though this is the main motivator for most to start their yoga journey

Yoga is a mind and body practice. It is a philosophy that combines forms of physical postures, breathwork and meditation. Aside from the physical benefits, should practice yoga to calm the mind, ultimately working towards experiencing a complete state of tranquillity. It is important to understand that the physical practice is a key part of the yoga philosophy, but yoga is not merely limited to this. Asana (physical postures) form just one limb of the Eightfold Path of Yoga Sutras, even though this is the main motivator for most to start their yoga journey. These eight limbs are essentially guidelines to help cultivate a purposeful and meaningful life. 

The Eightfold Path:

  1. How we treat others and the world around us (Yamas)

2. Self-discipline (Niyama)

3. The physical practise of Yoga to keep the body healthy (Āsana)

4. Breathing Techniques (Prānāyāma)

5. Withdrawing focus from the senses and exterior objects (Pratyāhāra)

6. Concentration (Dhārana)

7. Meditation (Dhyāna)

8. Enlightenment (Samādhi)

Image: Instagram @saktiisha

What made you start your yoga journey?

I started practicing yoga when I was at school but began committing to a consistent practice during the covid-19 lockdown. Meditation and asana practice became a medium for me to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress that came with studying my degree from home. As I am also a musician, I believe my love of yoga also stemmed from the meditative and reflective connection I feel when moving to music. I now consider yoga a non-negotiable part of my daily routine. Since consistently practicing yoga, I have adopted a holistic lifestyle, finding I am much more mindful in day-to-day life. That being said, I have so much more to learn as a student and teacher and look forward to this ongoing spiritual and physical journey. 

What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about yoga?

I think the biggest misconception about yoga is that it is purely a practise to excersize the body. There is so much more to yoga than strength poses and stretching! It is about connecting the breath, body and mind in order to discover and honour one’s true self. The practice may start with the development of physical postures, but the ultimate goal of yoga is to create that deeper spiritual connection. At the same time, many people are intimidated by the asana practice because they think that they must be extremely flexible. This is far from the truth; anyone can practice yoga irrespective of their abilities and anatomy. The practice is a process and there are many asanas that can be practiced consistently to help improve flexibility, balance, and strength. 

What are the main physical fitness benefits of yoga?

Many people are attracted to yoga to improve their strength, balance, and flexibility. Yoga, particularly vinyasa yoga, can be a great workout as it requires strength to hold postures, and endurance to flow through a routine of them. In turn, yoga can benefit the body in a variety of ways such as combatting inflammation, improving posture, injury recovery, supporting heart health, increasing energy, reducing stress, and improving sleep.

Image: Instagram @eviewyoga

There is no focus on competition or comparison to others. Everyone who practises yoga is on their own individual journey of progression.

How can yoga improve our mental health?

Yoga challenges us to focus on the present moment. This encourages us to quieten the mind and eases feelings of anxiety and stress. Additionally, the practice of yoga values progress over perfection, unlike other forms of excersize, there is no focus on competition or comparison to others. Everyone who practises yoga is on their own individual journey of progression. Despite learning different postures, the emphasis of yoga is to be kind to our bodies, there is no pressure to push yourself too far.   

How would you rate the different ways in which you can access yoga?

I resonate with platforms differently depending on how I am feeling each day. I find in-person classes beneficial when I want to challenge myself, feel a sense of union in my practice, require adjustments or want to be held accountable during my practice. Some days I find myself leaning towards online platforms such as Youtube, where I can immerse myself in a practice from the comfort of my own room. This allows me to set the tone for my practice, helps me feel confident and focus on my own physical goals. I turn to books when I wish to delve deeper into the yogic philosophy, which is an important ritual for me in order to familiarise myself with the roots of yoga.   

What have you learnt in the transition between practising, and teaching yoga?

Teaching yoga is an extremely rewarding experience. I thoroughly enjoy supporting students on their own journey in their physical practice. Although I have definitely noticed my personal practice has improved since becoming a teacher, the most valuable aspect of teaching for me is witnessing my students grow and heal emotionally, physically, and spiritually. 

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