And what ever happened to step aerobics or sweating to the oldies???!?!
Well, there's obviously the yoga body. Everybody wants that Jennifer Aniston-like yoga body. But that can't be what keeps everybody coming back to their mats. First of all, we're never going to look like Jennifer Aniston (especially - and thankfully - the dudes who practice yoga). Second, we can just as easily hit the gym, run, swim, bike etc. to get fit (although I still think yoga is a better total body workout than anything else around, but that's for another day and another post).
For relaxation perhaps? Yes and no. If you think the physical practice of yoga is relaxing, then you've never done yoga at some of the NYC studios I've practiced at, where the words "chill" or "mellow" or "relaxing" or "soothing" could never, ever, be used to describe the yoga that happens in there. One and a half to two hours of non-stop, hard core intensity, during which sweat is pouring out from your every pour and you're concentrating so hard on every muscle and bone and joint and movement in your body as you flow through insanely complex sequences that you think you're going to lose your mind.
And then for a second you do lose your mind. And you're in total bliss. And you realize that's exactly why you do yoga. Because it helps you lose your mind, even if just for moments at a time, and when you do, there's nothing like it.
I often leave a really good yoga class on a so-called yoga high. A floating-on-clouds feeling. A feeling of total and utter contentment and peace. And I might feel this way because throughout class, or maybe just at certain points during class, or perhaps even just for a hot minute at the end of class, I was able to let go of EVERYTHING else in life weighing me down and was able to just breathe and focus on nothing else at all but my breath and my body and that very moment in time.
This is the true magic of yoga in my opinion. Yoga helps still the mind by giving us an opportunity to focus on the breath, the body and the present moment. It's a form of meditation in its own right. And it changes you.
So that's it. I, for one, practice yoga because it helps me still my mind and find a sense of peace and happiness. And for this type-A, sometimes neurotic gal, there's nothing else in the world like it.
(And if any of this sounds familiar to you, perhaps it's because I've written an article on this very topic for MindBodyGreen, which much more intelligently addresses my initial question than this post does.)
Happy peacing out,