Wendy Maines, is a yoga instructor at Pure Prana Yoga Studio in Alexandria, Va.  She explained why yoga is so important. Yoga, originates from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to yoke,” to unify the mind, body and spirit completely and holistically.

What attracted you to yoga?

Close to 15 years ago, I was in law school, stressed out and not happy. They had some yoga classes on campus that were offering ways to relax. I got into it for stress relief and noticed that there really was a difference. With running, you can get that running high from the endorphins but with yoga it was the intentional connection of breath to movement. Changing my breath changed my mind-set; it changed the way I held myself physically because the breath is the key. It is the essence of yoga. What keeps me coming back is the way that I feel; it is a physical workout but it is also mental, and for me, spiritual.

What does breathing with intention mean?

Originally, the postures were developed to make the body more open and supple so that you could sit for longer periods of time in meditation. Meditation [has] many forms but it is focusing on the breath and when you are concentrated on your breath your mind is not going elsewhere. The practice is when your focus is singular so that it’s focused on the breath, everything else fades away and you bring yourself back to the moment. The more that you work on this practice, the more you are able to do it and  continually bring yourself back to the moment. It’s an awareness and a practice that all we have is this moment and the now!

Would you recommend yoga to everyone? 

I would absolutely recommend it to everyone because it’s a life practice. Yoga cues your mind to come back to now, as opposed to running on the treadmill listening to music; you are not there you just want it to be over. In yoga, you are instructed to come back to now. I encourage people to start where they are. Reading about it might be to their detriment because they might not ever start. Research a studio in your area, find one and get on the mat. It’s the doing of the practice that makes the difference.