If you’ve read much on yoga, you may have heard of the mind, body, and spirit connection. This is an ancient Indian belief as old as the practice itself. It is what sets yoga apart from any other form of exercise and is responsible for the stress relief benefits of yoga practice. The philosophy behind this connection is the desire to live a balanced life.
The origin of the word yoga reflects this connection. In Sanskrit, yoga means union. The ancient Indian sage Patanjali, author of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, recorded the asanas with the goal of connecting the body with the mind. The movements in the asanas combined with the breath work to discipline the body and mind.
Yoga breathing or pranayama is central to achieving the mind, body, spirit connection. In hatha yoga, the breath has an important role in uniting the mind and body. In many yoga classes, particularly hatha yoga classes, the breath and movements are connected and the teacher gives instructions for both movement and breath to help enhance the connection.
In the practice of yoga, you learn to listen to your body. As the flexibility of the mind is increased through the practice of yoga, so is the flexibility of the mind, thoughts and emotions enhanced. As the yoga student increases this flexibility, a higher level of consciousness is achieved.
The connection between the mind, body and spirit is addressed more in some classes than others, or at least that has been my experience. In some yoga studios, classes are designed particularly with this connection in mind and work to help the student learn to achieve this connection. These classes are sometimes advertised as mind body spirit yoga.
It is important to remember that achieving a connection of the mind, body and spirit is a process. Like learning the asanas, it isn’t reasonable to think the connection will be achieved in the first session. Each individual moves at her own pace, both in performing the asanas and achieving the connection.