understanding of interconnectedness.
As the teachings of Yoga moved from the East to the West, from the ancient to the modern and from traditional to entertainment, it also moved from the subtle to the mundane, from the essence to the crust.
Yoga is NOT those gymnast moves you see on the mat. This is one of the eight limbs of yoga known as Asana (or seat). The Yoga Sutras speak of the asanas amongst other concepts: the ethics we live by, the technology of the mind, concentration, control of the breath and much
more. Can you become enlightened just because you mastered a headstand? Maybe, maybe not.
Don't get me wrong, yoga asanas are great, they have the obvious benefits of muscle flexibility and strength, the increase bone density, massage the internal organs, increase hard tissue strength and bring glandular function into balance. They also have the more subtle benefits such as opening the energy channels, aligning the chakras, awakening psychic centers and expanding the life force energy (prana).
What I guess I'm trying to say what the asana will add to your life depends on many things. Firstly where is your practice coming from? What's your intention? Is it pure? Are you practicing because you want wellbeing, in your body, mind, emotions and soul, because you want to grow and become better? Or are you competing with yourself? Or worse, with others?
The second thing to think about is are you using the lessons you learn on the matt, off the mat? For example, we learn balancing poses in Yoga so that we learn to stay focused enough in our minds to react to challenges that life throws our way, we also learn to get back up
from every fall. We learn to consciously relax into our stretches by letting go of labels, mind chatter and judgement and directing our awareness and breath into the resistance we feel, that in turn helps us deal with our issues, develop stamina and endurance for our lives.
Last but not least is mindfulness. Through yoga, you can learn to be present in your practice, shedding away everything outside of the current moment, outside of the breath enough to capture each thought and emotion as it arises, look it in the eye, examine how true it is,
then decide to let it go. It teaches you filter away anything that's not useful in your thought pattern. A very handy skill to have off the mat!
Another perk to the yoga asana practice? When the yogis developed the poses they named them after everything, from Gods and heros, to plants, birds, quadrupeds and aquatic animals. This gets you to look at all beings equally, with a loving eye that realizes that we all breathe the same universal spirit.