If I could meet anyone in the world, living or dead, it would be Paramahansa Yogananda.
Not only did this amazing Indian man bring the philosophy of yoga and meditation to the United States, but he also essentially predicted the very moment he would die.
And when he did, he died with the acceptance of death and a profound appreciation for life.
Luckily, Yogananda left his insight and teachings for those born after his death in an autobiography. There's also a beautiful documentary on Netflix called “Awake: the Life of Yogananda."
Since 1920, yoga has turned into one of the leading forms of exercise. It's about strength and flexibility, inverting and putting your legs in places they should never go.
And that's intimidating. But I'm here to tell you that there's so much more to the practice than looking like a pretzel.
Here are three much greater reasons you should try yoga.
1. To listen to your body.
Guess what? Your body needs stuff. Not just food and water -- it needs your attention.
We ache. We cramp. We hunch. We drag. And we tighten up in places we didn't even realize were tight.
I had no idea that I carried all of my stress in my shoulders until I started practicing yoga. Just as Yogananda said "God exists in our spines," I'm telling you that stress resides in my shoulders... and probably in yours too.
Yoga has brought to my attention how absolutely horrendous my posture is. While the process of fixing it has not been an easy one, it's something I focus on every time I practice.
Yoga shows us what we need, and it gives us the proper tools to achieve it.
2. To focus on your mind.
The mind and body are so closely connected -- essentially, they are one because they both belong to us.
Taking the time to draw your attention inward is not only beneficial for your body, but also crucial for your mental state.
Yoga teaches us mindfulness. Sure, we blink and breathe all the time. In fact, you're doing it right now!
Closing your eyes and focusing on truly BREATHING in a room full of people and allowing yourself to do that… and only that… for extended periods without worrying about everywhere you have to go later or everything you have to do is so powerful and liberating, but it's FRIGGEN HARDER than you think.
Doing yoga, however, allows you to go there. To stillness. To internal peace. To the same place that society and technology has stripped us from.
3. To meet your soul.
What if I told you that there are seven other limbs of yoga apart from asana, the physical practice? Well, get ready because I am.
The first two limbs are called the Yamas and Niyamas, and they are guidelines for the right way of living.
The Yamas teach us the importance of nonviolence, truthfulness, not stealing, moderation and detachment.
The Niyamas encourage our own personal purity, contentment, austerity, self-study and devotion to a higher power.
When I learned about these other aspects of yoga, I was truly hooked. Self-studying is something we don't do enough.
Oftentimes, we're so focused on other people and what they're doing or how they're making us feel that we neglect our own significance and development.
How can we grow like this? The answer is, we can't.
Actually, the answer is yoga.
"Om Namah Shivaya" is a common mantra for meditation that means, “I bow to Shiva.” Who's Shiva? You.
Shiva is the inner self, your true identity. When's the last time you bowed to yourself?
We don't think of ourselves as being powerful. We don't even know our own souls and yet, we hang out with them every single day. We need to start honoring ourselves, to acknowledge our own potential and to water our seeds of compassion.
Now ask yourself again, who is Shiva? Who are you?
Don't know? Try yoga.