Although the practice and general knowledge regarding the importance of yoga are spreading like wildfire through the West, it's important to have a strong knowledge of what you're actually doing in order to get the most out of your yoga practice. Yes, yoga is scientifically proven to decrease stress and improve overall well-being—a trait that does not go unnoticed, per the current explosion of mindfulness practices across the United States—but it's not just because each vinyasa flow class makes us feel like a superhero. In fact, the physical practice of yoga is only one small part of it.
Similar to Buddhist teachings, yoga teaches us invaluable lessons and provides us with lifelong tools to sit with what is, whether "what is" is illuminating or uncomfortable. The ability to see life, ourselves, and each other clearly as we are right now—with a wide lens and laser focus—is what ultimately supports us in cultivating balance between highs and lows, ups and downs, and everything in between.
The asana (physical) practice is only one of eight "limbs" of yoga. Other best yoga practices include breath work, how we conduct ourselves in life, self-discipline, and steps to meditation that result in enlightenment or feeling more one with ourselves. Moving into and out of postures in tandem with the breath provides an incredible platform for the mind-body connection, transforming our physical and spiritual selves from the inside out.