I have been practicing a loose form of yoga for about 8 months, and did my years of karate as a child, doing kinesthetic movements. There is something of great value we gain from using our mind, body and spirit completely. Much like playing an instrument requires all three parts to work in harmony, so does yoga.
Yoga means union. In a world that bombards us with clichés regarding a mind, body & spirit connection, this is very important. But in real people terms, what is the connection between the poses (asanas), breathing (pranayama), philosophy, and Western psychology? David Frawley, author of Yoga and Ayurveda writes:
Yogic methods cover the entire field of our existence – from the physical, sensory, emotional, mental, and spiritual to the highest Self-realization. It includes all methods of higher evolution in humanity – physical postures, ethical postures, breath control, sensory methods, affirmations and visualizations, prayer and mantra, and complex meditative disciplines. Yoga understands the nature and interrelationships of the physical, subtle and formless universes into the boundless infinite beyond time and space, and shows us how these also exist within each human individual.
But even more basic than that, “How does yoga help me?”
This is achieved through conscious breathing, practicing poses, learning relaxation techniques, and meditation. The antidote to the Stress Response is the Relaxation Response, which activates the para-sympathetic nervous system. More importantly, yoga teaches us how to remain peaceful in the face of discomfort and challenge. We learn the art of surrender.
2. Yoga helps us pay attention.
Many people notice that they are more physically, mentally and emotionally self-aware. Often, this self-awareness begins by paying attention to our breath and all its habits. Then, we move to our thought cycles, and finally, to where we hold tension in our bodies.
3. Yoga heals our bodies and minds.
The poses, conscious breathing and visualization serve as therapy to reduce physical pain as well as emotional anxiety. I have found this to be true in my own recovery from a traumatic brain injury. We learn practical methods of self-comfort. And through active effort, we advance our practice into one of self-love and self-acceptance.
4. Yoga breaks our bad habits.
With yoga, we learn new, healthy patterns that override harmful habits. Through yoga, we learn discipline and commitment to our own health. Letting go of the unhealthy habits allows us to see the possibilities more clearly.
5. Yoga reminds us to be responsible.
I have seen students move time and again from a place of blame to a mature place of responsibility. First, we become responsible for our physical bodies. Next, we observe our thoughts and begin to take responsibility for our inner dialogue. Eventually we accept authorship of our own lives in a co-creative expression with the universe.
Certainly, the yogic benefits go beyond this list…in my experience, yoga can help us to experience the best life ever! Feel free to weigh in with more in the comments below.
Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Editor’s note: This is another amazing guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.
Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at [email protected]. Twitter: @alchemytours, @inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.
Photo credit: Cam Lee Yoga