The Yoga Link
by Emilia Abayah Santo

Why Yoga? Why now in the West?

Do you wonder about why yoga is so popular now? In every town and city you can find this practice. In some cities like New York, the number of yoga studios is proliferous and it can be overwhelming experience for someone new to yoga. Then there are the schools of yoga. There is Hatha, Jivamukti, Bikram, Asthanga Vinyasa, Iyengar, Anusara, and Kundalini - and this is not an all exhaustive list.

Many other ramifications of yoga exist. Do you know that the Yoga Journal readership has doubled in the past four years and is now at 325,000? Seventy-five percent of gyms and fitness centers offer yoga classes.

Why is yoga growing at such rapid rate in the West? Well, we know that popular stars across many fields (music, acting, sports, medicine) have voiced their practice, including people like Madonna, Sting, Jane Fonda (who switched over from aerobics) Kareem Andul-Jabbar, Dr. Oz, and Yankee pitcher Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez. They have helped to bring out the yoga blitz and of course all the media and marketing of all the products that accompany it.

In the popular media, we see that a big focus is on the fitness and physical wellbeing aspects of yoga. Physicians like Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn , and Dr. Timothy McCall have been leaders in promoting the use of yoga as a health benefit, particularly as a stress reducer. Individuals with cardiac issues, cancer, endocrine and hormonal problems are seeing the benefits of adding yoga to their care. Yoga has even been included at some hospitals like New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

So why yoga? Because of
prana. Prana the vital universal energy, it flows throughout the body via the breath, the breath being it's important link, it's conduit. Prana is felt physically via the five senses of the body (Annamaya Kosha). It is also felt in the emotional body, the air, in the movement of the breath (Pranamaya Kosha). It is felt in the mental body, Manomaya Kosah, in the thoughts (present, past and future). It is felt in the intuitive, wisdom body, Vinjnamaya Kosha, the present spontaneous moment that without judgement, and that leads to the ultimate connection to all, bliss: Anandamaya Kosha, total connection mind, body and spirit in all, oneness.

Wow! That’s a pretty impressive list of attributes, including experiencing bliss! Now of course if you practice yoga you can reflect on your connection with the koshas and assess how connected are you in your practice. So, the true teaching of yoga is to be in complete connection, as in meditation. In fact, when reading the ancient text of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, yoga is defined as "yoga cite vritti nirodhah" which translates as "the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga".

So, in summary: Why yoga? Because for each of us, at whatever level we get to with each practice - being physically stronger, more energy, more vital with the breath, calmer in our mind - it is our link and our connection.

Why now in the West? My opinion is that our society in the West has become so removed from the feeling of
connection. We live in very fast-paced atmosphere; we are hounded by a lack of time; we are disconnected from nature, from our cycles, our natural rhythms, and our food sources. Perhaps subconsciously the reason why we are so attracted to yoga is because of the link to a more balanced way of life. Yes, there are many ironic, marketing ploys so far removed from yoga. And yet it's massive movement is helping the shift of consciousness move towards connection, and that is a very important link.

If you are new to yoga begin with Hatha Yoga as a starting point. Try various teachers and centers. If you are concerned about safety and have some injuries you might want to consider private instruction, where the teacher can address your specific individual needs. But by all means, if you are attracted to yoga, find your connection!

Emilia Abayah Santo, MA, is a certified yoga teacher who received her training at New York’s Integral Yoga Institute. She is also a certified Holistic Health Counselor, having trained at Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Emilia is also certified as an herbologist, and a reiki practitioner. She is available for private consultations and classes. She can be contacted at Her web site is