Yoga is said to be a journey. A famous quote from the Bhagavad Gita (a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata; one of the two major Sanskrit epics) refers to yoga as the journey of the self, through the self, to the self. Having practiced yoga for 20 years, I can say I truly understand what that means.
If you have ever found yourself in a yoga class, you may have heard the teacher refer to the term "monkey mind.” In Sanskrit the term is referred to as Chitta Vritti. No matter what you call it, we all experience this mind chatter from time to time.
When we have stress in our lives, this mind chatter can become very distracting. Speaking merely for myself here, this mind chatter can be downright mean sometimes, even causing doubt and anxiety. So how does yoga help? When we practice yoga, we are practicing more than just asanas (poses), we are practicing mind and body control.
We all know stress is a bad thing, but it is inevitable. However, learning to control our reaction to stress can help tremendously. As a yoga teacher, I try to instill the concept of letting go as I lead students through their practice… letting go of ego, letting go of judgement, letting go of expectation. Through practice we learn to face each undesirable thought, giving it recognition, then letting it go and replacing it with something more desirable.
Sometimes just practicing pranayama, or breathing techniques, can reduce the effects of stress on our internal world. Scientific studies have gone as far as to state that regular practice can increase the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain which help us with the reduction of anxiety and depression.
Over the past 20 years I have utilized my practice for physical release, mental release, even emotional release. I chose to teach yoga for that very reason, and along the way have guided many clients and students along their own individual path. Do we really need a scientific study to let us know if yoga will work for us? Doesn’t it cause more stress in our monkey mind to determine the credibility of a scientific study? Why not just give it a try and see how it works for you.