An Appetite For Yoga
New Year, New You
The ball has dropped and the glittering parties are over, yet the hope that this invigorating holiday offers will live well past December 31st. The promise of a new year brings with it a sense of rejuvenation and an intentional landmark to start something new besides another calendar. We make plans to start the diet or spend a fortune on the new memberships, clothes, and trips that will surely create the person we want to portray in 2019. But without identifying the benefits of your new resolutions and the underlying urge to seek fulfillment, these efforts are often temporary and can create an internal sense of failure when we slowly fall out of the new routine that we promised 2019 to maintain.
One outlet that many will attempt to “try” in the first few months of this year is the ever growing and popular practice of yoga. Most of us break the ice with yoga seeking an exercise or the “new student discount month” at a hot yoga studio to hide from the cold winter months. That is an amazing introduction to the physical benefits of yoga postures and will often lead you to deeper, more intimate benefits of a mental yoga practice if you let it. Usually when the discounted first month expires and the dread of continuing to invest in such an expensive new hobby sets in, the entire business world will see a drop in new commitment by February or March of 2019. While I’d love to talk more about maintaining goals or making more permanent changes, that discussion is for another day and other passionate life coaches. For the sake of mental, spiritual, and physical health though, I want to dive into the depths of yoga to help spread the ripple effect. When guided and given the prompts to identify why yoga is fulfilling you, I know it will become much more of a lifestyle change instead of a few month’s bank account splurge. If you’re not ready to take the plunge into yoga yet, here is my interpretation of why yoga has become so popular, in what ways it serves its students, and what its doing to satisfy a “hungry” society so that you may want to experiment with these benefits for yourself.
Why do we crave yoga so much?
In 2016, A study was conducted in America using the resources of the Yoga Journal, Yoga Alliance and Ipsos Public Affairs. They calculated the demographics of the rising trends and yoga users and asked for feedback on many common questionnaire topics. I’ll be referring to the results of this study but assume that all the numbers from 2-2.5 years ago are already outdated and do not represent the exponential growth of yoga popularity, practitioners, and businesses. I believe there are many themes in our modern life that are contributing to the rise in yoga, rising alongside their rapidly climbing influence. These themes attract and build a certain identity of people that are extremely influential, adding to the accelerated spread of collective consciousness, holistic healing, spirituality, mental health awareness, and physical movement. Let’s address each area of this practice and how it feeds the desires of our current western world.
Let’s Get Physical
Throughout my athletic and clinical experience, I’ve witnessed training trends come and go, taking the memory of healthy spines along with them. I was surrounded by high intensity athletes in a college training setting where I witnessed young people experience debilitating back pain that we were taught to find in people twice their age. Their are many reasons for this, but for my discussion I think the most relevant cause is the ever expanding gap between sedentary student/work lifestyle and active movement. The harder we learn and work, the more we fill our day with a seated position. Then to make up for the sitting, we go to the gym for an all out hour of high intensity training. Nothing wrong with HIIT or Crossfit workouts, just pointing out that there was no in between, recreational, or casual activity from the desk to the circuit (A 5 minute warm up stretch doesn’t count). The soft tissue and physiological systems in our body are not meant to go from 0-100% every day. It runs us down and doesn’t allow our musculoskeletal system to prepare for the big change in forces.
Yoga was my “in-between” at first. I satisfied the urge to move without making myself more exhausted or tired. It was my warm up, the meat of the routine, or my cool down depending on what I needed that day. I stopped adding yoga on top of my existing and strenuous routine once I realized that it was possible to gain the same benefits from yoga alone that I thought was only possible after a sprint workout, soccer game, or weight room burnout etc. I was feeling strong. My upper body muscles became functional and toned like never before. What was once the hardest side plank of my life, soon became effortless and familiar. YOGA IS EMPOWERING. One major findings of the Yoga Alliance study was how “yoga practitioners have a more positive view of their capabilities than non-practitioners.” That was the freedom I was looking for in an exercise outlet; to help my mental health match how good I felt on the outside.
When I started practicing regularly I had so many excuses about how far my surgically altered body could be pushed, blaming it on “my bad side.” Yoga broke down my previous limitations both physically and mentally. “34% of Americans say they are very likely to practice yoga in the next 12 months – equal to more than 80 million Americans. The reasons cited include flexibility, stress relief and fitness.” The never ending sequences of stretching, breathing, and strengthening perfectly compliments other forms of exercise that you already love like running, lifting, cycling,or my new favorite…rock climbing. Over 75% of study subjects who practiced yoga were also highly active in one of these other sports. A moderate to regular practice is ideal to show yourself progress of combined mental and physical resilience and endurance.
Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe Affect- Community and Social Life
Blame it on us millenials, but we have done an amazing job combining our favorite outlets in life. Whoever picked up on the trend was a smart business person because almost every yoga studio is located close to if not connected to a coffee shop. Not only do yoga practitioners love to feel good, they also love to connect with like minded individuals, support local business, and become an active member of their community’s platforms. I speak for many when I tell you know how nice a Saturday morning can be if you spend yoga and a follow up breakfast with someone you enjoy the company of. Don’t know anyone to do that yet?? No problem, it’s a perfect ice breaker! I’ve witnessed first dates, company networking, and re-connection of long lost friends at a yoga class. It gives you and that person a shared activity, a sense of their interests, and an immediate conversation starter once the class is over.
“As it turns out, human beings nourish each other and the health of the body reflects this.” – Lisa Rankin MD
Yoga students and teachers alike are becoming extremely active community members. The familiarity of kind faces at your local studio attracts those who are lacking a supportive tribe at home or in their work environment. A routinely healthy group of like minded individuals is the perfect medicine for anyone needing to feel accepted or “at home” within themselves. It was a vital part of my relocation selection process, to move somewhere that had an active yoga community. I knew that I would make new friends and be supported as a new clinician in this outlet because it combined my two loves- healthy relationships and healing journeys. It took a few months of awkward classes by myself nodding at strangers and asking the person next to me if “they’d taken this class before” to open the door to permanent friends, and a sense of belonging in this new city.
“Not only is it human nature to crave intimacy and belonging, it’s also essential preventative medicine. Copious scientific data proves that loneliness is a greater risk to your health than smoking or lack of exercise, and finding your tribe is better than any vitamin, diet, or exercise regimen.” – Lisa Rankin MD
Consciousness Awakening- Craving Something Bigger Than Us
I wasn’t searching for a new spirituality when yoga came into my life because I had a religion and thought it served me very well. Only after witnessing the intensely spiritual yoga practitioners could I admit I had no true relationship with anything “bigger than me.” I went through the motions of my religion but never felt like God was actually in reach. I knew nothing about eastern culture besides acupuncture philosophy and almost rebelled from any conflicting information in the beginning. I didn’t want to be a part of “their” yoga, just the kind I thought was acceptable and appropriate for my background. It was this mindset that prevented me from grasping the full experience and should’ve been a red flag that I needed the yoga community more than ever. I love how many different religions of people can share yoga without conflicting their personal or cultural beliefs. Don’t limit yourself. Try numerous classes with different teachers without assuming that every yoga teacher or style of yoga is the same in case that first class rubs you the wrong way. Westernized and modernized yoga is for everyone, and what you make of it. Do you want to solely work on a sweat and a hamstring stretch? Perfect, we’ve got classes for that! If you are looking for answers about your energetic body and it’s connection to the universe, we’ve got that too! Eventually, you’ll realize that love, shared healing, and our interconnectedness knows no title or religious group. A physical yoga practice will open the door for you so that when you are ready to fully receive healing, the practice will develop and bring you closer to a creator/source. Westernized yoga allows you to honor and respect a source without having to finalize a decision between what religious beliefs you agree and abide by. It offers you a space to focus on things closer to home until you have that “aha moment” with the unknown. Use a non-spiritual form of yoga in the beginning to improve awareness of things like mental self-talk, physical resistances, and your healing abilities.
“Yoga can be a place to put divinity into movement, the spiritual into sounds and chants, the unseen into a meditative visual, and to finally experience the connection between our the power of our mind and its ability to alter the physical.” – Marina Mangano, DC
Many of you have heard of the term consciousness and probably affiliate it with “new age” vocabulary. Consciousness is defined as the state of being aware of something, both within or besides yourself. Awareness is how we know that something exists and then abide by it using our personality of the ego. Traditionally, yoga participants are considered highly conscious people that have an eye for bigger picture ideas and can easily see the world around personal day today concerns. Before you judge us, this is the reason that most sustainable companies and eco-friendly ventures are affiliated with yogis, hippies, and environmentalists. You can’t truly love healing and self-love without wanting those two things for the people around you as well. The Yoga Alliance study reported that yoga students are highly concerned about their health, the environment and the community. Half of practitioners say they live green, eat sustainable and donate time to their community. Sounds like an awful group of people to affiliate yourself with huh?
While most people go to yoga to improve their physical needs, those who stick with it walk away with a whole new outlook on life. When you put high conscious people in one room as they work towards a collective goal, it is a ticking time bomb for positive influence. Changes are bound to happen; Cumulative and exponential changes for those involved and for the people they are are in contact with in the community.
Another monumental reason that yoga has become a popular outlet for health is the influence from both corporate businesses and the social media that represents it. Yoga Practitioners are defined as people who have practiced yoga in the last 6 months in a group or private class setting and are not yoga teachers. Yoga Enthusiastsare considered those who report practicing once a week or more. Over 70 percent of yoga practitioners are women, from every age group and every region of the United States. 42% of the overall yoga practitioners are from 18 to 39, which is the highest percentage of social media users on Instagram and Facebook (The Statista Portal, 2018). Utilizing their large network of followers and sex appeal, people like brand ambassadors, influencers, role models, and healthy inspirations are contributing to the rapid spread of yoga practice and yoga gear. Using social media outlets, yoga has become an amazing source to support the economy.
“Yoga practitioners report spending over $16 billion on yoga clothing, equipment, classes and accessories in the last year, up from $10 billion in 2012.” All those clothes, pretty vacation pictures, and testimonies of life altering changes are at the tip of our nose for hours each day. It has attracted many young people that are looking to improve business, gain acceptance, and create social standing. I’ll avoid my social media and negative body image conversation to focus on the positive opportunity that the internet can influence. For example, it’s an amazing source of accessible education!
As a doctor, yoga instructor, and studio-hopping student, I love the educational resources that yoga studios have evolved into. You don’t need to be a medical student or highly paying patient to receive quality health information anymore. Every studio has taken the role of a host center for continuing education. What was once considered solely a yoga business, is now home to recovery programs, hands on manual therapy, mental health discussions, spiritual gatherings, nutritional planning, and wellness festivals. The comfort of learning new or intimidating material in a familiar space offers members of each community cheap access to highly intelligent and qualified people. Workshops, seminars, and certification programs fill the schedule of all successful yoga studios by bringing in celebrity guest speakers or by regularly scheduling yoga instructors that hold other professional, medical credentials. As a medical provider, I’m so happy that yoga students have a place to go that they feel safe enough to ask about musculoskeletal concerns and self-healing options. I have exposure to a limited population of patients that can afford care or will rely on insurance to start their healing journey. I trust the recommendations of certified yoga instructors to care for the rest of the musculoskeletal community that I will never meet. They have a foundational knowledge of the human structure, helping them to recognize when an issue is beyond their training and individual care or a medical referral is necessary. Take advantage of the opportunities your yoga studios offer the community. Stay observant on social media for events and join newsletters to avoid missing the course that will jump-start your healing journey!
SO..How To Start?
If you found yourself relating to the themes of this article there’s a reason. Your mindbody is sending you a signal to trust that it’s time to make some permanent changes. For most, starting yoga is a very daunting so I try to help them decide how much accountability they’ll need to maintain a practice. Disciplined enough to practice at home? Then you’re stronger than me! I like to practice at home but find that when I’m tired or busy that is the first activity to go. If you chose to stay a home practitioner, make sure sure to create a little quiet area dedicated to yoga only so that like your practice…. it becomes your own. Purchasing a class pass at a studio keeps me motivated to go and use the pass so as not to waste money. I think having an accountability partner (aka friend) to meet at yoga makes the experience much more personal and encourages you to enjoy the social community in addition to the physical benefits. Many students practice yoga at home, up to 65% of all participants. Saving money, time, and convenience are all benefits of a home practice. The benefits of utilizing a studio though, are the guided safety cues in poses, variation of sequences, accountability to practice, and community involvement. If you are concerned where to start and how your body will respond to yoga, I highly recommend private yoga sessions. Follow the link to learn more about the private yoga therapy that I offer! Anywhere you go, private one-on-one classes are perfect for beginners that feel overwhelmed in typical class settings. Sessions are designed to create safe and specific sequences for your body type, capability, and previous injuries. There is no better way to personally improve flexibility, balance, and strength.
If you find that yoga is not the adhesive that you’ve been looking for to glue together the different and possibly conflicting areas of your life, reread this article and take note of the themes and values that you are wishing to improve in. Replace the word yoga with whatever personal endeavor you connect with that will fulfill the subject areas above. For some, it’s a new job, a new relationship, a new church…..whatever helps you find health, happiness, and connection. Now what other outlet can offer you empowerment, camaraderie, purpose, faith, education, and a physical accomplishment all at the same time? Call me biased but, 100 dollars a month to address all those things under the same roof is well worth the investment and preventative medicine experience. Will you invest in yourself this new year? Find your fulfillment, find your peace, and lay the foundation for a lasting, healthy lifestyle change that will benefit all the new years to come. Namaste.
Dr. Marina Mangano xo
All Images: The 2016 Yoga in America Study. Conducted by Yoga Journal, Yoga Alliance and Ipsos Public Affairs. Accessed Online 11/27/2018 . https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016%20Yoga%20in%20America%20Study%20RESULTS.pdf
Distribution of Instagram users worldwide as of October 2018. Statista Portal. https://www.statista.com/statistics/248769/age-distribution-of-worldwide-instagram-users/
Rankin, Lisa. The Health Benefits Of Finding Your Tribe: Intimacy is preventative medicine. Pyschology today. Posted Sep 11, 2012. Web. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/owning-pink/201209/the-health-benefits-finding-your-tribe
Lipka, Michael. More Americans now say they’re spiritual but not religious. Pew Research Center. September 2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/06/more-americans-now-say-theyre-spiritual-but-not-religious/