In no particular order:
Practice can be adapted to anyone
Yoga is incredibly versatile. It might not be possible to accommodate everyone in a general class where the needs of the majority have to be considered, but one-to-one, yoga will always have something to offer, no matter what the circumstances. I have clients who do a fully rounded, hour-long practice sitting in a chair, or lying on their backs. Essentially a discipline for the mind, yoga doesn't even require the ability to move! Whoever you are, whatever your requirements, yoga will provide.
Can be done anywhere
Despite the increasing availability of beautiful, tailor-made yoga studios full of complex equipment, all that is really required for practice is open-hearted intention a small amount of space. Nothing else.
Yoga is an excellent healing tool. With a little guidance and a lot of mindful attention, practitioners can soon learn which postures are helpful for their particular physical ailments. An individually crafted yoga practice can offer as much as any physiotherapy session.
Integrates mind and body
There is a huge disconnect between the mental and the physical here in the West, with the majority of our work (and leisure) being head-orientated and sedentary. Understanding the intimate dance of mind and body is crucial if we are to live an awakened life. I'd argue that nothing can introduce us to the beauty of that relationship better than yoga, a formula for Self-realization that reaches back for millennia.
Offers valuable life skills that can be used off the mat
Yoga is much more than exercise. The lessons we learn about safe boundaries, about how to calm down, about being self aware, for example, don't just serve us when we practice in class, they help us in the wider world in myriad ways.
Promotes quietness, inwardness, slowness
Busyness, noise and being 'out there' are addictions of epidemic proportions in modern society. Whilst there is nothing wrong with these qualities in their right proportion, engaging in them without cease creates imbalance and ill health. Yoga is the perfect antidote, inviting a welcome interruption of peace and quiet into our hectic, stressful, loud lives.
Excellent for overall health
A well planned yoga class attends not only to musculo-skeletal structure, but also to the cardiovascular, respiratory, lymphatic and endocrine systems, the digestion, the metabolism and the processes of reproduction. Mental and emotional wellbeing are addressed by the release of stress and with techniques of gentle self inquiry. On an esoteric level, yoga practice engages the astral (energetic) body and increases the flow of life force energy (prana) through every cell of our being. It is a great all-rounder!
Opens the door to new ways of thinking
Yoga can be very empowering. It is always heartening to see the look on students' faces when they achieve something which seemed impossible, a moment that helps redefine their preconceived notions of self. Everything about yoga, from basic physical practices to the most complex philosophical ideas, encourage us to review who we think we are and how we relate to the world around us. What better way to learn and grow?
Introduces people to spiritual philosophy
Despite all the trouble religion is causing in the world these days, we live in largely secular times. Yet there is a hunger for meaning and connection that our materially-driven society cannot meet. Yoga is not a religion, but it is profoundly spiritual. When taught well and with integrity, this spirituality should be tangible, with presence - or quality of attention - the primary focus of any class. When we live our lives (or practice yoga) from a place of presence, stress dissolves, conflict resolves and we are more open to others, thus promoting the connection, and ultimately the meaning, that we yearn for. We may be coming to class simply to exercise or chill out at first, and that's fine, but there will always be the invitation to go deeper, to learn more and to engage with a spiritual outlook that dates back thousands of years.
Helps us understand ourselves more
When folks come to class for the first time, they often share (with some surprise) an insight with me at the end, something they hadn't realized about their particular physiology for example, or their ability to do certain things. My response is usually 'yup, yoga puts us in contact with the truth pretty quickly!' And it doesn't stop with the first class, either, for the truth is ever-changing, as is our relationship with it. I have been practicing yoga regularly for many years and each time I come to the mat I learn something new about my body, my attitudes, my preconceptions, my sense of self. We are beings of great complexity. Yoga helps to make us simple.
Penny Jane Fuller 2015