Alyssa McLeod, Founder and Head Teacher of Supa Soul, explores how the ancient teachings of Yoga beautifully compliment modern life.
In the Western world we live busy lives in a constant state of stress. We forget to take care of ourselves as we’ve been programmed to want more, do more, be more. As simple as it sounds, we forget to breathe. In this state we can become disconnected from our needs, missing the nourishment that we require which leads to imbalances in our mind, body and soul. Unfortunately there is some stigma of shame and selfishness in self evaluation and self preservation, despite it being widely known that stress can have a detrimental effect on your physical, mental and emotional health. The body’s response to stress can alter your hormones, blood sugar levels, digestion, brain and immune functioning, respiration and circulation. If stress is not addressed this can stimulate inflammation in the body, making you more susceptible to disease. Therefore your performance, perception and memory is compromised. However, Yoga gives the student a systematic approach to change the shape of emotions; to breathe and ground oneself, so that the body will follow.
The ancient yogis comprehended the need for a holistic perspective as they explored and experimented until they found what they understood as Samadhi (bliss, enlightenment). Now that we have the availability of modern science and technology, we are able to foster this mass of ancient knowledge through researching, witnessing and documenting the physiological, anatomical, mental, psychological, emotional, energetic and spiritual benefits of yoga. What we know about the human body today, the ancient yogis could only imagine. The yogis had no evidence of the systems in the body - digestive, respiratory, immune, cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine - nor any research on how they functioned, yet their understanding was so profoundly on the same tangent as we are today. Their description and positioning of the chakras (energy wheels) is in great proximity to the location of each endocrine gland and even their definition of prana as our life force is nothing but exact. In essence, prana is our breath and without breath we do not exist for longer than a few minutes. The simplicity of the system of Yoga profoundly states a wealth of knowledge to guide us through our every moment - whether challenging or joyous - and the Yoga teachings are just as relevant in the madness of the modern world as they were thousands of years ago.
Masses of information are thrown at us daily, causing us to further lose our way from our purpose and truth. In the digital age we are highly connected in a virtual capacity, yet there is a great risk of us becoming physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually disconnected from each other. It’s not healthy for anyone to feel alone, we all crave love and support as human beings. The word ‘yoga’ originates from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means ‘to yoke’ and is often translated as ‘union’. Within Yoga, there is a unity of the student with the teachings, a unity of the student to the other students, and a unity to the Self. By working through the 8 limbs of Yoga we can pull ourselves out from the rubble of modern distractions (the ego) to find balance, strength, trust, clarity, generosity and lightness of self in a holistic capacity - mental, physical, social, environmental, psychological and emotional. To lead to greater happiness and spiritual fulfillment for you and everyone around you. As Yoga Sutra 1.2 by Patañjali states: yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ - ‘Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions’.(1)
Alyssa McLeod (RYT-500, Level 1 Registered Yoga Teacher, 30 hour Advanced Assisting) is the Founder and Head Teacher of Supa Soul in Melbourne. Supa Soul offers public, private, school, beach, festival, function and corporate yoga. For info, visit www.supasoul.com.au or @SupaSoulAu on Facebook and Instagram.
(1) Moksha Academy of Yoga 2014, Introduction to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, p.6