Articles and Book Excerpts

Why Do Pranayama?

by Patton Sarley (Dinabandhu)

Physical well-being. Lightness of heart. Clarity of mind. Inner and outer health and fulfillment. Weight loss. Purpose, intention, and direction. If you could produce these sorts of results without any cost, equipment, office visits, travel, or special talent, would you be interested? If all it took was 30 minutes a day, would you take the next step?

Pranayama is the art and science of yogic breathing techniques, and these techniques will reliably produce the benefits listed above. Things that sound too good to be true—the latest fad diet, get-rich-quick schemes—usually are. But yogic breathing exercises actually deliver the benefits they promise, and this article is aimed at helping you understand why and how.

Defining our Terms

It should come as no surprise that breathing is one of the most important and intricate activities we engage in. In many ways, our conscious life begins with our first breath and ends with our last. Cellular respiration, the source of all our physical energy and expression in the world, is dependent on a constant flow of oxygen being delivered to each cell and carbon dioxide being taken away. Every emotional state we experience has a corresponding pattern of breathing associated with it. Even the elemental rhythm of our heartbeat is intimately connected with the action of our lungs. The word “inspiration” itself refers to both the act of breathing in as well as the state of being filled with spirit and energy.

Because yoga comes from India, many of its terms sound foreign to Western minds and can make the practices seem esoteric or inaccessible. In reality, pranayama is as easy to practice as our next breath. “Pranayama” is a Sanskrit word made up of two halves, “prana” and “yama” (or “ayama”), and is most often translated to mean “mastery of the life force”, or sometimes, “removal of obstacles to free the flow of life force.” In yoga, the life force, known as prana, refers to the energy that animates, controls, and permeates the world in and around us. Digesting our food, changing our heart rate in response to exercise, and fighting off infections are all highly complex and variable tasks, yet each of them happen spontaneously, effortlessly, and automatically through the functions of prana. This same force is behind great migrations, the interdependence of species, and the changing of seasons. As the naturalist John Muir said, “Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.” Prana is this active and intelligent force connecting everything. And pranayama is the exploration of how we can tap into this universal potential.

The aim of both yoga in general and pranayama in particular is to help us participate in the nearly unlimited intelligence of the life force so that we can share in its capacities. Instead of fighting nature, we gradually become able to partner with it. When the ancient seers began their study of the potential of being human thousands of years ago, they soon saw that working with the breath could yield impressive results toward greater aliveness, self-expression, and power. The breath is one of the easiest doorways into the capabilities of the human nervous system because it touches every aspect of our being: physical, physiological, psychoemotional, and spiritual.

Physical Effects: Organ Toning and More

The first step in pranayama is training ourselves to use the entire range of our physical breathing apparatus. This means experiencing full yogic breathing—coordinating the lower, middle, and upper parts of the breath process—as well as learning to attenuate the outgoing breath. You can learn this type of breath from any qualified yoga instructor.

When we take full, slow, deep breaths through the nose, using all three sections of our breathing apparatus and drawing out the exhalation longer than the inhalation, a number of important things start to happen in our body. First, nose breathing filters the air, warms it, and keeps it moist. Thus the air arrives in the lungs in the best condition to provide efficient transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is no small thing. Anyone who deals with breathing difficulties will tell you just how much dusty, dry, cold air aggravates their challenges. In addition, full breathing through the nose also stimulates some of the subtle nerve structures, beginning the process of bringing light and aliveness to our inner realms (more on this later).

A full breath with the exhalation longer than the inhalation also has significant impact on the processes of the abdominal cavity, where all of our main organs are located. As the diaphragm moves up and down, each of our abdominal organs moves also, sliding against one another, changing shape, tugging on its attachment tendons and fascia, and sloshing around any liquid or food it contains. These physical actions are crucial to the health of our organs, and thus to our quality of life.

A colleague of mine emphasizes that “life is motion.” Since many of us spend too much time sitting, we don’t get the movement we need to promote optimal health, especially in our abdominal cavity. Sitting at a desk, table, or in a padded television chair undermines proper breathing by promoting a “hunched over” or compressed posture that pinches the abdomen. This compromised posture leads to an over reliance on getting our breath from the middle and upper parts of our lungs, using our diaphragm inefficiently, and costing us the health-producing movement of our key organs. It may sound odd to credit a regular pranayama practice with improving both digestion and elimination, but if you practice regularly, you will see that this is what happens.

When we practice full yogic breathing, we also increase the velocity of the fluids moving through all the tissues in our body, thus promoting an increase in nutrition to the cells, more efficient waste removal, and better immune defense. Scientists estimate that we have more than two gallons of fluid in our body that is not contained within our cells but around our blood vessels, organs, and cells. When the breath moves in and out, it produces alternating saturating and wringing effects on our tissues and this “interstitial fluid.” Similar to cleaning a dirty sponge in a sink, this action has a significant cleansing effect.

The alternating squeezing and soaking process helps the lymph system in particular. Our lymph system is tasked with fighting infections and overall detoxification. This function requires fluid transport, but the lymph system itself does not contain a primary pump like the heart, so any activity that promotes fluid movement becomes crucial. Complete yogic breathing is one of the best facilitators of this necessary transport.

The last physical benefit of pranayama practice is that full yogic breathing tends to empty the lungs completely. This has two important consequences. First, this means that the bottom third of the lungs gets a thorough airing when we do pranayama exercises. Like the bottom of any container, gravity will tend to accumulate material there. When we use our lungs completely on a regular basis, we have a better chance of keeping the bottom third of our lungs cleaner. Second, regular practice of a full- breath technique will keep the tissues of the lower lungs more nourished, flexible, and free of toxins. Just like the heart can starve for blood when the arteries harden and narrow, the lower lung tissue can starve for nutrients and oxygen when it is insufficiently used and seldom moved.

Physiological Effects

Most of us have heard of the “fight or flight” response, the automatic reaction that happens in difficult or threatening situations. This response comes from our unconscious nervous system (the autonomic nervous system), which actually consists of two halves: the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. The sympathetic system helps us get “pumped up” or energized to deal with external demands or threats, and is thus the originator of the stress response. The parasympathetic system moderates or de-energizes the body, and is thus the originator of the relaxation response. In a healthy system, these two halves of our autonomic nervous system should turn off and on regularly and in response to life events.

Unfortunately, our nervous systems do not always function in a healthy way. In our modern world, it is well established that we overstimulate our sympathetic nervous system and understimulate our parasympathetic nervous system—with disastrous impacts on our health. Living with an overamped sympathetic nervous system in a habitual stress response contributes to almost every domain of illness, from heart disease and hypertension to digestive difficulties, diabetes, backaches, joint pain, autoimmune disorders, and insomnia.

A daily pranayama practice stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system as well or better than any other activity—you can test this yourself by starting a regular practice and noticing that at some point during your breathing session your salivary glands will kick in and fill your mouth with saliva, one of the key indicators of parasympathetic activity. Taking time each day to consciously activate the parasympathetic nervous system will, over time, reprogram our bodies’ habitual pull toward an overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and significantly reduce the health risks associated with that overstimulation.

Psychoemotional Effects

Do you remember your parents or grandparents telling you to take 10 deep breaths when you got angry and before you acted on that anger? This folk wisdom endures because it has a solid base in science—and begins to demonstrate some of the most powerful benefits of pranayama: that the breath pattern will automatically change when the emotional pattern changes. We breathe in one pattern when we’re joyous, another when we’re angry, another when we’re depressed, another when we’re distracted, and so on. This presents an important opportunity.

When we spend several minutes a day consciously regulating our breath, we break our unconscious patterns of breathing—and thus the unconscious emotional patterns that underpin them. This is a very important phenomenon. We function best when we are flexible, agile, and able to flow with the changes that life brings. Unfortunately, many of us fall into habits of thinking and feeling that come to dominate our consciousness, even when they are out of step with what life is presenting. We wind up narrowing the range of our emotional and cognitive experience and become more rigid, more habitual, and less creative. Daily practice of breath regulation works against this ossifying tendency. Just as many times computer glitches can be solved simply by rebooting the hard drive, so too can habitual emotional glitches be solved simply by regularly changing the patterns of our breath.

One of the most important psychoemotional benefits of practicing breath regulation is the confidence it gives practitioners to self-regulate in other areas of their lives. Because pranayama takes focus, overall concentration increases as well. Since you are stimulating the relaxation response, you are able to be calmer in many areas of life. Since you are increasing oxygen levels in your blood each day, your cellular respiration becomes more efficient and your energy levels start to build. Because you are starting to see success in so many areas, your self-confidence gets a boost and that growth in confidence brings a higher level of performance, thus further bolstering self-confidence. Pranayama practice is the priming mechanism for the pump that starts the virtuous cycle of feeling good about yourself.

Over time, pranayama practice also generates awareness of the more subtle layers of interconnection between our choices and their effects. Many people doubt that such simple exercises can produce the results I am talking about, but those who actually practice have no doubts whatsoever, including the yogis who have confirmed this over and over for thousands of years. Think about it—if it weren’t effective, would humans have bothered to keep this knowledge alive as long as they have? Try it for yourself.

Spiritual Effects

Looking at the catalog of the benefits of pranayama practice in these domains, there is more than enough inspiration to begin practicing, but the real payoff goes beyond these.

Western science focuses on the gross nervous system, but yogic wisdom always posited the existence of a matching subtle nervous system. Full pranayama practice aims to illuminate and enliven this subtle nervous system. Yoga teaches that the human nervous system has potentials far beyond the normal regulation of the physical and mental bodies. In yoga, the human nervous system is like a set of antennae that can focus and channel the creative power of the universe into expression in a single life. Pranayama practice polishes the capacity of the nervous system to conduct this cosmic creative potential into real, tangible manifestation. It is similar to increasing the capacity of a wire inside a lightbulb so that it can handle more wattage without burning out. When the wire can handle more wattage, it produces more light and heat. When we practice pranayama every day, our subtle wiring gradually becomes stronger and we begin to fill up with light and energy. In many ways, this is all we really mean when we talk about being “enlightened.” There is really no end point, just a gradually increasing capability of our nervous system to handle all forms of energy.

As the light body is gradually polished and enlivened, we also develop a much richer inner life and a deep sense of spiritual balance. When pranayama is followed by a short period of meditation, the connection to inner stillness increases by leaps and bounds and will ultimately create the period of rest, integration, and quietness that we crave in our practice.

In the end, breath, movement, and energy is life, and life is breath, movement, and energy. The yogic practice of pranayama combines all of these elements into a single integrative experience that is well worth the investment and one that will absolutely generate both inner aliveness and resilience and a powerful outward expression. The only thing you need to do is practice each day.

Why not get started?

Patton Sarley (also know by his Sanskrit name, Dinabandhu) is cofounder of the Natural Yoga system for self-development and coauthor of two books, Walking Yoga and The Essentials of Yoga.


Thriving in a Stressed-Out World

by Garrett Sarley (Dinabandhu)

Your work has been exceptionally stressful, the kids need your attention, your spouse/partner is emotionally unavailable, and you have your aging parents’ care on your mind. To make things worse, the world at large is less healthy and safe—global warming, war, and the weakening economy that is threatening your financial security. With these types of pressures and worries, is there really a way to stay healthy and happy?

Yoga is the science aimed at answering this very question. Though it’s an ancient inquiry, the depth and breadth of yoga can shed much light on the human search for health and happiness, even (perhaps especially) in modern times. The word yoga means “union.” From a yogic perspective, our struggles, fears, and anxieties are indicators that inner union is broken and we are disconnected from some aspect of ourselves. Because the human organism is so deeply interconnected, when one area of our life shifts out of balance, other areas suffer, too. If I am working long hours, not exercising or doing yoga, and eating unhealthy foods, I not only feel less physically healthy, but I also feel cranky with others, like a failure at work, and at a loss for real purpose in life. It’s a vicious cycle.

The costs of leaving this cycle intact are substantial. Stress carries significant health risks. Digestion becomes impaired, our hearts work too hard, our blood chemistry gets imbalanced, our sleep is disturbed, and our resistance to disease erodes. These health risks are then often amplified when our attempts at coping with this stress lead to poor choices in relation to food, alcohol, drugs, relationships, and lifestyle.

The good news is that we can address these challenges through a three-part yogic process.

One: Breaking the Cycle

The first and most important step is to break the physical cycle of stress and hyperstimulation of the body’s health-maintenance systems. Yoga postures, meditation practice, breathing exercises, and physical exercise all work to change the blood composition and “reset” the system at a lower level of stimulation. What each of these activities has in common is some form of breath awareness and regulation—this is important. The breath maps our state of mind and the state of our emotions; these states then get reflected in the patterns of the breath. When we interrupt and regulate these patterns, we influence the persistently held patterns of the mind and heart.

Swami Kripalu, the inspiration for Kripalu Center, taught that “without the breath, there is no yoga.” Even if you can’t find time to have a regular yoga or meditation practice, learning to consciously change your breathing patterns can powerfully counteract the habitually held stress response. Remember, you can always find a time and place to take several long deep breaths since you have to breathe anyway! Incorporating some form of activity that changes the breath patterns is almost a prerequisite to going deeper, since we need the resulting “breathing space” to consider other dimensions of being disconnected.

Two: Listening Within

The second step for thriving amidst stress means shifting our frame of reference from the roller coaster of external events and people to the soul-nourishing prompts of our inner worlds. Despite our best efforts, we will never succeed in controlling all the events and people in our lives, so change and struggle will never go away. Amidst the hurly burly of modern life, some of us pay less attention to that voice than others, but every human being knows deep down that the eternal spirit lives within.

Think of this inner voice as a melody that is always playing inside us. Certain activities turn the volume up and help us recognize it. Cultivating an ear for our soul’s music is a powerful antidote to the stress that comes from living in a constantly changing world. Whether it is watching a sunset, reading a spiritual book, doing yoga, caring for a loved one, or actively praying, each of has experiences that attune us to the inner life.

In order to be of use in dealing with stress, we must make such practices regular and intentional. Only by repeatedly and deliberately turning up the volume of the soul’s inner voice can we hear that melody as we navigate our everyday circumstances and struggles. When we have a moment-by-moment awareness of the eternal in our lives, the pressures, threats, and disappointments of the changing world have less of a hold on us.

Three: Committing to Personal Growth

The third step to thriving amidst struggle is the hardest yet most rewarding of the three: commitment to personal growth and character development. In the deepest sense, our struggles, challenges, and times of turmoil are windows through which we can see our character defects most clearly. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us can see that the true source of our struggle isn’t outside circumstances but our conscious or unconscious patterns of insecurity, fear, dependence, and the protection of our self-image.

Sometimes these habitual patterns are described as something we can willfully change, as if we could just decide to be different. In reality, this is only partially true. What this approach misses is the need for an energetic shift in our whole self—body, mind, and emotions. Where do we get the energy to make such a fundamental shift? This is the true gift of struggle. Even though we constantly complain about our challenges and the inequities done to us, with reflection we can see that as we struggle we are gradually increasing the energy within us. Without this uncomfortable process, we never accumulate the energy necessary to change the status quo. Learning to tolerate this gradual increase of inner energy as it builds toward a climax of breakthrough is the true art of yoga. Too often when things get too painful, we look for ways to turn down the heat of transformation. When water is heated, if you keep the lid on, the water reaches a boiling point faster and undergoes more quickly a change into steam. This same process happens in personal growth.

What is the key practice that “keeps the lid on”? In effect, it is seeing clearly—focusing on the message that life is bringing to us rather than the circumstances we are struggling against. Unfortunately, this often involves facing moments of crisis, despair, and a sense of helplessness. Though painful, these are the moments in which we can actually see our imperfections. These moments of truth and self-knowledge are the gift of struggle and stressed-out times.

Yoga is an incredible and accessible discipline that offers us a way to study the patterns of struggle and stress. Inquiring into how this works in the unique circumstances of our own lives takes practice—and non-attachment to the results of our practice. Sometimes we are too determined to “stick with it,” so we miss the signals that a loving retreat may be called for. On the other hand, we may retreat too early and never find the measure of our true strength. Self-love and holding one’s self accountable are the two halves of a paradox that each of us must work with in our lives if we are to gain the fruits of personal growth.

The three parts of this process—breaking the cycle, listening within, and committing to personal growth—work together in an ongoing way to contribute to creating the conditions for freedom. Through this yoga practice, on and off the mat, we can learn to harness the power that life’s challenges provide us in order to live a healthy, more meaningful—and actually thrive in a stressed-out world.

Patton Sarley (also know by his Sanskrit name, Dinabandhu) is cofounder of the Natural Yoga system for self-development and coauthor of two books, Walking Yoga and The Essentials of Yoga.


Why Do Yoga?

by Patton Garrett Sarley (Dinabandhu)

According to a study by Yoga Journal, nearly 15 million Americans practice yoga. If you are among these 15 million, you know that yoga makes you feel better—its effects are almost immediate—but you may not know why. And if you haven’t yet joined the yoga revolution, read on to discover just how beneficial this simple age-old practice can be. When practiced regularly, yoga reliably increases our sense of physical health, emotional well-being, mental clarity, and spiritual connection.

Breath Is the Key

The key to gaining the full benefit of your yoga session is to make sure you breathe deeply, fully, and in coordination with the movements of your limbs. Combining yoga postures with the breath benefits you at the core level of physical functioning: cellular metabolism. This is because the yogic breath delivers increased oxygen to your cells while the movements and holding of postures improves circulation, removing waste materials that impair efficiency.

In addition to improving the metabolic exchange that each cell depends on for optimal functioning, the muscular stretching and rhythmic pressure caused by the breath have a profound impact on the detoxifying mechanisms of the body, including the lymph system, kidneys, lungs, skin, and elimination components of the digestive system. This explains the feeling of freshness after yoga and the light or clarity you see in people’s faces following a class.

Cleansing the Bioemotional Self

Each of the upper six chakras (the subtle energy centers of the body) is associated with an endocrine gland. These glands have long been known for their role in producing the hormones that control basic body functions. The recent revolution in neurobiology is the discovery that the physical and emotional bodies are directly regulated by a complex balance of these hormones and other chemicals that are also produced in the glands, including neurotransmitters (i.e., serotonin). Small changes in these chemicals have a significant impact—our emotional world is heavily dependent on how well our endocrine system is functioning, i.e., our hormone and neurotransmitter levels. Because yoga specifically tones the endocrine system, when we practice regularly we experience mood enhancement and an overall feeling of well-being.

Each time you take a yogic breath while in a posture, you do two things: you increase blood flow and pressure on one part of the body and you decrease it on another. Think of how you would go about cleaning a dirty sponge. Don’t you hold it under the water and then repetitively squeeze it in and out? This is precisely what happens to all tissues in the body during yoga, especially the endocrine glands. This massaging, flushing, and cleansing action stimulates endocrine functions to more optimal levels. Anyone who practices yoga regularly can verify that this process is actually tangible, and that increasing levels of confidence and a more positive mental outlook are natural results.

Undoing Stress

Cortisol and adrenalin are hormones that are released in the body as a result of stress. Sustained high levels of these “stress hormones” destroy healthy muscle and bone; slow down healing and normal cell regeneration; co-opt biochemicals needed to make other vital hormones; impair digestion, metabolism, and mental function; interfere with healthy endocrine function; and weaken the immune system. Sustained levels can eventually lead to a host of serious metabolic disorders, from hypertension to cardiac disease. The good news? Yoga reduces cortisol and adrenalin levels in the body by returning it to a physically stress-free state, making it less susceptible to illness and more prone to resiliency and vitality.

Muscular and Cardiovascular Health

As a result of the practice of yoga, your entire muscular system becomes stronger and more elastic, and thus less susceptible to injury. Standing and balancing postures strengthen and lengthen the big muscle groups and floor postures strengthen the muscles that support the spine and head. Flowing from one posture to the next with attention also increases coordination of the musculoskeletal system as a whole. You move more safely and easily and feel more at home in your own body. Finally, the heart, as the largest involuntary muscle of the body, greatly benefits from yogic breathing practices and from the relaxation experienced in the muscles during yoga, allowing the whole cardiopulmonary system to reset to a healthier rhythm.

In addition, whenever your head is lower than your heart—in postures like standing forward bend, Downward Dog, and headstands and shoulder stands—your whole circulatory system gets a rest. The walls of every fluid-containing tube in your body gain a reprieve from the constant fight against gravity. Inversion postures also specifically target the thyroid and pituitary glands, sometimes referred to as the “master glands” because of their role in regulating metabolism and health.

Mind-Body Unity

Neurobiologists have been studying the interaction between the body and the mind, and their findings show what yogis have been saying for thousands of years: functionally, the body and mind are inextricably bound together. The mind is a subtle body and the body is a gross mind. You can think of it like fingers in a glove; when you move your fingers, the glove moves; if you move the glove, your fingers must move also. This insight is the basis for the revolution in psychiatry over the last two decades and the reason why the standard treatment for mental disorders now consists of tinkering with the organic blood chemistry system rather than the psychological and emotional constructs; more often than not, when you go to the psychiatrist, you get a prescription, instead of a dialogue. This interweaving of body and mind also helps to explain yoga’s effectiveness.

Integrated Functioning

While yoga works from the inside out to improve our emotional and mental state by affecting the organic biology that conditions mood, it also works from the outside in. When you practice yoga properly, you create the conditions for becoming absorbed in the moment. The breath, the movement, the concentration, the flow, the conscious relaxation—all of these together create the possibility of entering a very powerful realm, the moment of integrated functioning. Integrated functioning occurs when what you think, what you feel, what you say, and what you do are all the same and aligned. We all experience thinking one thing, feeling another, saying a third, and then doing something else. Mostly, we are not integrated.

The good news is that it is highly likely that you will experience moments of integration during a yoga practice session. The focus on the breath, coordinated movement, and deep relaxation of yoga practice specifically pulls strongly toward integrated functioning. When you fall into an integrated state at some point in your practice, you’ll notice that your entire neurobiological system resets, with fairly dramatic results. People report sudden clarity about how to move forward in a challenging situation in daily life, and spontaneous physical and emotional healings occur.

My own story convinced me of this early on. In one of the first yoga classes that I ever took, I fell into a state of deep relaxation. When I came out of it, the bronchial asthma that had plagued me for my entire life had disappeared, never to return. This also helps explain why yoga is so effective with weight loss, even when the actual calories expended in the yoga practice do not account for it. Moments of integrated functioning bring you back to your natural self. Repeated familiarity with your natural self works against those stresses and habits of feeling and thinking that underpin control of diet and lifestyle choices. Though it may seem counterintuitive that a set of physical movements and breathing techniques can have an emotional effect, the regular practice of yoga postures will bring you more happiness, confidence, and mental sharpness, and these traits will continue to increase as you continue to practice.

A State of Union

Yoga is often referred to as a spiritual discipline, and endless numbers of people report an enrichment in their inner life as a result of this practice—but how can a process of merely breathing and stretching your body generate a spiritual experience? As we’ve seen, yoga acts as an integrative practice on all levels of the organism. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means “yoke,” as in binding a team of oxen together. Thus, yoga means “union” or “yoking together.” On the most superficial level, it balances and integrates the body. You may have noticed that the left and right sides of your body are not the same, nor is the top half of the body balanced with the bottom half. One half is stronger, better coordinated, injury-free, etc. Yoga practice works on erasing these imbalances by stretching and strengthening each half equally.

Just as with our physical bodies, our emotional bodies can be out of balance, uneven, turbulent. You are probably more comfortable with certain emotions more than with others—and not only the so-called “positive” ones. We often live with parts of ourselves separated off into compartments, yielding an experience of not feeling “at home” with ourselves; we feel split and conflicted much of the time. Yoga practice can interrupt these patterns of unintegrated functioning and reliably substitute experiences of natural, integrated movement and being—the experience of flow and deep relaxation. We start to reclaim parts of ourselves that before were left to exist in the shadows of our personality structures, draining energy, confidence, and flow from us as we tried to make our way through life.

Connection to the Whole

Still, how does balancing the halves of the body and integrating those lost parts of our inner self generate a spiritual experience? The core component of a spiritual experience is the awareness of being part of a unified whole. Religious and spiritual traditions describe this experience differently, but the common theme is always one of awareness of and connection to a larger whole.

Every time you practice yoga, you have the chance to reclaim part of yourself that you don’t always have easy access to. It might be physical, mental, or emotional, but the process of integration is quickened by yoga practice. When you regularly participate in this flow of integration, you automatically sync up with the larger rhythm, like when a pendulum is placed next to another pendulum. After a while, both swing in the same cadence. Yoga practice aims to reset our physical, mental, and emotional rhythms to their natural state. We experience this resonance as a spiritual experience, and drinking often from the fountain of yoga practice can make this available to you more and more often. The inner life of the soul becomes as familiar, real, and tangible as our body, thoughts, or feelings, and with this awareness our life becomes deeply enriched.

Anyone Can Do It

The most wonderful thing about yoga is that virtually anyone can practice it—people who are young and healthy and people in their 80s as well as those confined to wheelchairs. I once worked with a woman who had had both legs amputated, and I know a Kripalu Yoga teacher who teaches yoga to people three days after they have open-heart surgery. Don’t be intimidated by the exotic bends and twists you sometimes see adept practitioners putting their bodies in. There is a yoga practice that is right for your body and stage in life, and regular practice will bring you all the benefits yoga has to offer.

Patton Sarley (also know by his Sanskrit name, Dinabandhu) is cofounder of the Natural Yoga system for self-development and coauthor of two books, Walking Yoga and The Essentials of Yoga.

6 Responses to Articles and Book Excerpts

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