Namaste: Yoga benefits beyond the mat

Life can be stressful, that’s why it’s common for people to seek out activities that bring tranquility into their lives. An excellent way to achieve both calmness and mindfulness is to practice yoga. And in Coos Bay, there are a growing number of options for those seeking such relaxation and self-meditation.

Yoga is not a new practice; it’s Northern Indian roots can be traced back to five thousand years ago. It was first mentioned ancient texts, Hindu scriptures and classical Indian epic poems. It was used to relax the body and mind and to also bring awareness of the less positive traits and pains, ultimately releasing them. Overall, the goal was to reach nirvana, or the extinction of hatred and ignorance–and to be released from the effects of karma. 

There are numerous benefits to yoga even today, whether it’s spiritual in nature or of a more mental or physical realm. It is often used as a way to gain relaxation through a kind of meditation, while also gaining flexibility. This could mean setting out with the goal of re-aligning the body’s chakras to reach enlightenment and nirvana, or just trying to overcome the stress of the day while building a stronger and healthier body. 

“Everyone can benefit from yoga,” said Lauren McGarigal, owner of Coos Bay’s House of Asana. “You can be disabled or in a wheelchair, you can take some form of yoga that will improve your life.” 

Practicing yoga can help ease anxiety, depression, and stress, while simultaneously building self-acceptance and assisting with focus. It can bring a person into the present, focusing on what is happening in the now and letting go of unnecessary attachments and negative influences in life.

“Yoga is a physical practice with mental benefits,” McGarigal said. “You can learn things on the mat that you can take off of the mat. While the normal fitness class is just about working out and then you leave, yoga is something that should be a life time practice in which you learn things that you can use in the outside world.” 

Physically, yoga assists in alleviating tension, ache, pains, and soreness. It can also help someone feel one with their body by bringing awareness to every finger and every inch of their body.

“I started doing yoga because my body was hurting,” said Alicia Hatzel, an instructor at House of Asana. “I was an athlete for most of my life. I played and once coached volleyball, and I had a knee surgery. I went to physical therapy and I still had a lot of pain, so traditional medicine wasn’t the fix…because of my pain I started coming to yoga and I noticed that when I did it three times a week or so when I kept with a consistent practice that my body felt so much better.”

The spiritual purpose of yoga is to balance all of the chakras, or focal points in a person’s body. These include things such as the heart, crown, and third eye. There are eight limbs, or parts, of yoga, which include aspects such as meditation (dhyana), yoga postures (asanas), and breath control (pranayama). The goal is to reach nirvana, or a state of peace, that releases one from undesired reincarnation or poor karma. Simply, reincarnation is karma, the sum of a person’s actions. All of this relates back to Hinduism and yoga’s roots in India. 

“When you get through these eight steps, then you can incorporate using those tools for refined living,” said Daniel Houghtaling, an instructor at Coos Bay’s Mossy Lotus Temple. “You can use those tools to incorporate positive states of being into the world.”