Soul Yoga: Reconnecting Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Article excerpt

SOME call it the "science of life." Others believe it's a "healing art." Still others say it's the "in" exercise that can help you look better and feel better. By whatever name, yoga has become one of the most popular fitness trends in recent years, and more African-Americans are reaping the rewards of this ancient, soulful practice.

Yoga is a series of poses, postures and positions that were developed thousands of years ago to promote strength, flexibility and body awareness. There are six different branches of traditional yoga--hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, jnana and tantra--that are distinguishable by whether the branch emphasizes breathing, specific postures, movement, dance, aerobics, or a particular philosophy.

Most Americans practice hatha yoga, a general term for the style that emphasizes the use of poses. People with a wide range of fitness levels and body types can perform this branch of yoga.

Yoga was the "perfect fit" for Adia Naba, whose given name is Tiffany Artison. A trained dancer, Naba had decided while at the University of Chicago that she would not pursue dance professionally, and instead would focus on the mental health work that she loved.

But Naba also wanted a way to stay long and lean and physically fit. Enter yoga, which changed the course of her life forever. Now a certified hatha yoga instructor, Naba opened Alchemy Yoga and Wellness Studio in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Naba has seen many of her students go through the same metamorphosis that she experienced seven years ago when she began practicing yoga.

"I started to understand how important it is to incorporate the mind, body, spirit pyramid while doing yoga--and even started using it to counsel kids," says Naba. "Yoga's about balancing those three components."

Many Brothers and Sisters are also discovering African yoga, based on the belief that yoga actually started thousands of years ago in Egypt, not India as many believe. Unlike traditional yoga, African yoga--with its four sacred systems or Voudon, Kemet, Palo and Yoruba--is derived from sacred African traditions and beliefs. The African style, which is often accompanied by drums and flutes, tends to be more fluid.

No matter what type of yoga you decide to try, the benefits are numerous, particularly for African-Americans. Many have found that practicing yoga aids conditions and illnesses that hit the Black community particularly hard. Yoga helps high blood pressure, stabilizes the heart rate, increases lung capacity and strengthens the immune system. …