Tens of millions of people do yoga these days.

Why?

They could do anything. If they wanted strength and flexibility, they could do Pilates. If they’re looking to enhance their breathing, few things are better than swimming. If concentration and discipline is their game, rock climbing is awesome. For others, running builds both camaraderie and endurance. Yoga for thyroid sufferers…

With all the benefits of these other forms of exercise, why do so many people  head to yoga?

I have a theory.

They could do other practices, but none of these other practices come with the air of spirituality. None of these other practices tout the integration of body and mind, while also tending to the needs of the spirit.

Yoga offers this deeper and more connective experience…beyond some of the benefits of strength and flexibility. In fact, if you wanted flexibility, there are actually more thorough practices that would grant that, say gymnastics. And, if you wanted strength or endurance, yoga falls far behind other forms of exercise including CrossFit or spinning.

And yet, so many people gravitate toward yoga.

Even though in the West, yoga today looks much different from its Eastern origins, and many classes only feature the slightest hint of its spiritual or esoteric trappings, there is still something about yoga.

It is something we desperately need.

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We, as a collective, have largely moved away from our spiritual or religious origins, and many of us actively question our native mythologies in favor of the certainty of science. Currently, there is a big gap missing in our psyche, in desperate need of spiritual connection, without a way to satisfy it that speaks to us–in our time, in our culture, to who we are now.

We’re not willing to go back to our inherent religions or spiritualities. Whether it is because of a bad experience, we’ve simply outgrown them, our reliance on empirical data, or it is just not a part of our world view any longer, we still need something that satisfies this deep, and rich part of our psyche.

We have a spiritual function and it cries to be satisfied.

At first glance, yoga may not appear to address this deeper part of us. But for all of us who practice it, we know that it is more than just physical. Even if we start for merely physical benefits (like I did!), we quickly realize that yoga does so much more. Suddenly we feel lighter, more engaged in life, less stressed, just better.

We don’t have to know why. The yoga does its job.

But, wouldn’t it be nice if we did  know why? And, wouldn’t it be nicer if we were able to utilize and enhance yoga’s power to create a more uplifted mindstate? Rather than be haphazard benefactors of yoga’s effects, how about we become masters of yoga itself?

This requires a dedication to the practice that goes beyond the physical application. It means our full participation–mind, body, and soul–in all the practices of yoga that lead us to, well, yoga.

Yoga isn’t just a set of practices. Instead, the practices allow us to create the groundwork for the actual state of yoga to arise. It is within us all. We get glimpses of it when we feel present, connected, and blissful. It doesn’t have to happen on the mat. There are a variety of practices that bring this out. When we dedicate ourselves to them, we put the power of yoga in our own hands.

We make yoga our own.

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About the Author

Thyroid-Healing-YogaAlanna Kaivalya, Ph.D. What initially propelled Alanna into her first yoga class was the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (a combination of hypothyroidism and an autoimmune disorder). Over the years Alanna has explored and studied many modalities of healing from diet, to energy work, to therapeutic practices, to physical movement, and even traditional Western medicine. Of all the things she tried, she came to know this: The body can only express the truth that it carries inside. Over the past 15 years, Alanna has written three books on yoga (Myths of the Asanas, Sacred Sound and Yoga Beyond the Mat), launched the world’s first and most comprehensive online 500 hour teacher certification program, and earned her doctorate in Mythology and Depth Psychology. Find out more about her at alannak.com.

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