The first thing to understand is that there is a huge misconception in the Western World that yoga is solely physical exercise. I believe that the concept of yoga is understanding how everything is connected. It's an holistic practice involving movement, breath, stillness and meditation…so that you can move through your everyday life as the best version of yourself. One part of yoga that most of us understand is called ‘Yoga Asana’ (or postural yoga practice): where we specifically build strength, mobility, flexibility, as well as internal health in the body, through all these exercises.
It’s very rare to isolate a part of the physical body when you're doing yoga. The definition of yoga is to ‘yoke’ or to connect, bring together. So the moment that you try to isolate just the legs in your practice is the moment you're going to be practicing separation. Yoga is about moving away from dualistic approaches, and instead moving towards a sense of union through what we're doing. So when we practice a specific posture and we think about using our legs and strengthening our legs, of course that will happen, however ultimately we're trying to use the entire body as one connective unit. This is something that becomes very subtle, perhaps something that you can only experience as you develop more awareness in your movement practice.
Engaging the legs and really feeling them connected to the floor will result in you noticing those areas of your body that might be not engaging enough also noticing those areas that are engaging unnecessarily. It's about finding that equilibrium, that balance between engaging the correct areas in order to find the stability and strength that the posture offers, but then also letting go of any unnecessary effort, such as the tension that you might feel in the jaw, the control and force that you might feel in the breath.
Yoga is so much more than just strengthening the legs. It becomes this beautiful holistic approach to the way you move your body. If these movement patterns include the legs, strength will undoubtedly be generated, but awareness will also build within your mind. One of the best ways to understand is via the practice of expanding your conscious awareness. From there, you can bring awareness to your legs and increase their strength.
To conclude: Yoga Asana can bring strength into the legs, however understanding the bigger picture: yoga is so much more than strengthening the legs. Namaste.
This article was created for Warrior Addict by the awesome Jacob Mellish, International Yoga Teacher, Pro-Surfer and Warrior Addict Global Brand Warrior. You can find out more about Jacob here