Preface My intention of this post is to shed some light on what yoga is beyond social media and the mat. To the people who are curious, I hope this will spark an interest in you to seek an authentic yoga experience. Even if you don't have a positive impression of yoga or its practitioners, open your heart and mind to try understanding it in another light.
This post is great for folks who feel that yoga is only for the flexible, aging, calm, boring, or zen people, and the more you should give yoga a try if you're none of the above!
You've probably heard how people rave about yoga and how it changed their lives. Is it really that powerful? My personal experience would tell you, straight YES! However, yoga is far more than what we see on social media. Yoga is an ancient wisdom that guides us to liberation, not just physically free of dis-ease but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. This is what differentiates yoga from pilates, or any similar movement exercises for the matter.
Total yoga practice makes you work on yourself inside out and to become the master of your mind instead of just your body. Having a great vehicle without knowing how to drive it is pointless, and yoga will transform you into a superb driver who is capable of navigating through life's ups and downs with equanimity.
Here are my top five reasons for practicing yoga:
1. Mind and body relaxation:
It's common to hear people comment that they like a different person after a yoga class and the reason is simple. In a slow, deliberate yoga practice like Hatha or Yin, the mind and body are allowed to slow down. The strong emphasis on steady breath coordination in each movement draws our attention inward to our body, giving us a mental break from our daily lives and that incessant self-talk. By practicing yoga in a mindful manner, we can guide our body back into the recovery parasympathetic mode which is the rest-and-digest state.
2. Improves circulation and energetic flow
Besides providing tone and length in our muscles, every yoga pose is created to impact our health and energy. The physical benefits of yoga amount to an endless list but primarily, yoga boosts our circulation (e.g. blood, lymphatic, digestive) and helps to release stagnant energy that is stored in our body. If you're feeling sluggish, vinyasa yoga is the perfect flow to get your energy moving due to its dynamic nature.
With the current science, it is necessary to start considering if our discomfort is of a psychosomatic origin. Meditation is not just about being present or quietening the mind but identifying and resolving destructive feelings and thoughts.
Many of us don't realize the correlation between the mind and body. When we feel negative, our body responds to it biochemically and physiologically. When we repress our feelings and do not take time to destress, our breathing becomes impaired. Chronic poor breathing habits are often the underlying cause of stiff neck and shoulders which we tend to simply fault our postures and habits. With such physical discomfort, it's only natural that one becomes more irritable.
Therefore, yoga is a great way to cultivate mental, emotional, and physical awareness so that we can actively release all the excessive energy that would disrupt our functionality.
3. Creates ease in your daily life
In Hatha and Yin yoga, we tend to hold a pose for anywhere from 1-20 minutes. When done safely, this helps to increase your range of movement and flexibility, which translates into ease in your daily activities.
Practicing yoga regularly is a good way to release physical tension, regardless if you have an active or sedentary lifestyle. In fact, yoga is very beneficial for active people, as it speeds up recovery time, increases performance, and lowers injury rate. Life can be a lot more enjoyable when you stop waking up with back pain or being able to go the distance without physical restraints!
4. Promotes calmness and better decision-making
Worst decisions are often emotional decisions made out of anger, fear, and sadness. Whenever I am feeling antsy, I would try engaging in breathwork to shift my state of mind. Whenever I can't sleep, I'll do a body-scanning meditation and before I know it, I'll be asleep when I reach my toes imaginarily. Whenever I feel down, I'll try to go for a slow, restorative yoga sequence and bring my awareness to my body instead of pondering over everything.
Basically, yoga provides us with countless tools to tame our minds and emotions. A clearer and stable mind always allow us to decide better. Through these yoga practices, I've become less reactive and more aware of how my emotions are affecting my choices. Even if you're unable to sit still or fall forward to touch your toes, I believe yoga is able to offer something useful to everyone as long as we are receptive.
4. Yoga improves your concentration
In the beginning, some people will find their concentration improve by practicing yoga poses with breath awareness. For me, it got even better through meditation.
If you're new to yoga, practicing the poses works best as there are many balancing poses that require your full attention. The soreness presented in every pose will also help to bring your attention to your body instead of having wandering thoughts.
Once you have attained a level of unwavering focus, you can give meditation a go and find that it isn't as hard as you think!
5. Yoga helps you to develop gratitude by being present
A prolonged sense of presentness through yoga practice or meditation diminishes undesirable thoughts that are created by our mind. When you are truly present in the moment, feelings such as anxiety, fear, anger, or sadness will fade away as you'll come to realize that you're simply holding onto the past or being too worried about the future.
Being present allows you to be more appreciative as you'll start to see the little joys and simple beauties that life and nature have blessed us with. Before I started practicing yoga mindfully, I was always preoccupied by past events and too busy trying to win the rat race to notice the good things around me. Now, I am constantly marveled by how good our body is designed to feel and the intelligence of our body system. This sense of wellness made me become very grateful for having the gift of life and the privileges I enjoy such as access to clean water and the latest technologies.
It is through my personal experience that I understood contentment in life is only possible when one has gratitude instead of having it all.
I hope this post offers you a reason to consider integrating yoga into your daily life and free to drop a comment especially if this post resonates with you!
Wishing everyone a blessed week ahead!