Yoga teachers sometimes poetically say that yoga meets you on your mat exactly where you are today. It’s both poetic and true. Yoga has something to offer everybody, bringing them to a state of greater wholeness and vitality.
Many people first find their way to a yoga mat when they are frazzled and stressed. As we know, stress is associated with high levels of cortisol circulating throughout the body, a steroid hormone that when chronically elevated damages cells and make us vulnerable to disease. But the fact that most people consider decreasing cortisol levels to be a good thing is exactly what made a pilot study published last summer one of my favorite papers of the year. It showed increased cortisol levels in a group of women with fibromyalgia after they practiced yoga for eight weeks. This was good news because their too-low baseline cortisol levels worsen their fatigue, joint pain and inflammation. But imagine that you were doing the same yoga classes alongside these women with fibromyalgia who were participating in the study. Isn’t it amazing that your cortisol level may be dropping while theirs were on the rise! This is a beautiful example of yoga normalizing the neuroendocrine system – or, in other words, meeting you exactly where you are.
Yoga gives you what you need, whether on the chemical-physical level or on the emotional-spiritual level. Practicing yoga has been shown to help a wide range of conditions – from depression to sciatica, autism to substance recovery, diabetes to irritable bowel syndrome – that are so diverse you normally don’t talk about in the same sentence, much less look for a common denominator in treatment. But it’s there: Yoga for X, Y and Z. .
Reading research about the benefits of yoga makes my head ask how it works while my heart asks so what should we do about it now? If I had a natural, cost-effective healing solution that was easy to share, who would I share it with? That’s simple: everyone.
This simple idea of sharing the practice is at the heart of a non-profit organization called Community Yoga, which brings free classes to hundreds of Austin residents every week who might not otherwise be exposed to the healing benefits of yoga, including veterans and individuals who are incarcerated, homeless or have been abused. Along with Austin Yoga Hub founder Lk Bookman, I am honored to serve on the board for Community Yoga, and we can tell you that some big things are in the works! Want to get involved? You can help us grow by sharing your practice at one of several by-donation classes that are open to the public every month so that we may dive into our waiting list of new sites that have requested our services.
Community Yoga is at the forefront of a wave of social change, a movement of people whose lives have changed for the better through yoga and now want to share healing and joy with others. The Yoga Service Council is bringing together many yoga-focused community outreach organizations like Community Yoga to share best practices and train aspiring yoga teachers to serve at a landmark conference later this month at the Omega Institute. Seane Corn, Kelly McGonigal, Beryl Bender Birch, BK Bose, James Fox and many others will present at this first annual service-focused yoga conference. These are social innovators who are all solving for X .
So what is X? A gender? A troubled population? A medical condition? A week full of Mondays? A new way of being? Freedom? It’s all that and more. So go ahead. Practice. Share. Solve for X.
1 Curtis K, Osadchuk A & Katz J. (2011). An eight-week yoga intervention is associated with improvements in pain, psychological functioning and mindfulness, and changes in cortisol levels in women with fibromyalgia. Journal of Pain Research, 4: 189-201. Full text here.
2 Register for the conference with a $100 off your tuition by calling Omega (877.944.2002) and using the discount code “YSC”.