When people think of yoga, they often think it’s for those “hippy dippy” types who walk around in caftans, chanting “Om” all of the time. Have you ever stopped to consider why these “hippy dippies” always seem so, well, happy and healthy? Before I got into yoga, I wondered what it was about the practice that seemed to leave those who practiced it with a glow about them. After years of working out in a gym, surrounding by sweat and loud music and the clanging of weights, I decided to give yoga a try.

What I didn’t realize is that the practice of yoga is much more than a different way to exercise. It is a way of life that can actually change you in immeasurable ways. Instead of “having” to go to the gym, it became “I get to” do my yoga sequence this morning. It is something I set my alarm early for not because I have to, but because I want to.

So what is it about yoga that can become such an important and intrinsic part of life? Those who practice yoga on the regular have experienced not only a shift in their physical being, but an awareness of their soul.

“Health is wealth, peace of mind is happiness, yoga shows the way.”

~Swami Vishnudevananda

A yoga practice is not just about the poses, or asanas. Just as important is the controlled breath (pranayama) and relaxation. Performed correctly, a regular yoga practice helps achieve not only physical health, but mental and emotional health.

And don’t forget, the great thing about yoga is that it can be done by all ages and most physical abilities. Chair yoga (yes, it’s a thing!) is just as effective for the body and the mind as it is for those who are able to perform it standing up.

Photo by Cedric Lim Ah Tock on Pexels.com

Yoga creates awareness

One of the primary benefits of yoga is that through the sequence of poses, or asanas, you become deliberately aware of your body’s position and abilities. This is perhaps best noticed when you first begin your yoga practice. As many of the poses involve developing physical flexibility, strength and balance, new practitioners are often surprised at their body’s rigidity and imbalance. The very awareness of these limitations is, however, the gateway to the life- changing aspect of this practice. For as you overcome your physical limitations through regular practice, you will also overcome any mental rigidity or inflexibility that you have simply been too busy to notice.

“However, at its core, yoga is much more that a system of physical fitness. It is a science of balanced living, a path for realizing full human potential. In these tumultuous times, yoga provides an anchor to a quieter domain of life, enabling people living in a modern technological world to stay connected to their natural humanity. Yoga offers the promise of remaining centered in the midst of turbulence.”

~From The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and David Simon, M.D.

When you strengthen your awareness muscle, you will find that it works in all areas of your life, and the world opens up in beautiful, vibrant ways that you could never have dreamed.

YOGA CAN HELP YOU HEAL WHAT HURTS

For years before starting my yoga practice, I suffered from pretty consistent back pain. Years of athletics, followed by hours on long commutes and just everything that comes with aging left me with a constant level of pain. Some days, my back or leg pain was so severe that I could not get out of bed, or, if I was able to make it out of bed, I could not stand up straight.

Of course, going to the doctor in such a condition typically ends with a prescription for either a narcotic or a very strong NSAID. Having become very well aware of what these substances can do to the body, not to mention the horrible addictions that they can cause, my foray into yoga was borne out of my desire to manage my back pain without medications, while maintaining physical fitness.

While I am not in any way offering any medical advice here, I can say that since starting a regular yoga practice, my back pain is much improved, as is my flexibility, balance and strength. That being said, if you are new to yoga, I would caution against just going into it with abandon. Performing the poses incorrectly can lead to injury. Take it slow, join a class if you are able, and do some research on some gentle poses to get you started. I started by reading http://www.yogajournal.com and have branched out from there, but there are plenty of online resources to get you started.

yoga helps to quiet the mind

Yoga has been called “moving meditation” because it calms the mind through focus and body awareness. As you move through your poses, focusing on how each one feels, you will notice that this practice of awareness of your body actually sweeps away the clutter of your busy mind.

Meditating at Villa Sumaya, Guatemala

A typical yoga sequence ends with a relaxation pose, or Shavasana (also known as “corpse pose”), the purpose of which is to take you from movement to a place of quiet and stillness in mind and body. Oftentimes, I will raise from Shavasana to meditate while still in the quiet glow of this wonderous pose, but even if you don’t meditate after yoga, just a few minutes of Shavasana stillness is like a slice of heaven.

“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.”

~Sakyong Mipham

If you’ve never done yoga before, or dabbled a bit with it, I would encourage you to give it a try, remembering that it is a practice. Do not get discouraged if you cannot touch your toes, or hold a steady pose. The practice of yoga, and the progression you will experience, is motivation enough to keep going. And just as in life, take it slow and easy, and you will reap the beautiful benefits of this ancient practice.

SuperLife: The 5 Simple Fixes That Will Make You Healthy, Fit, and Eternally Awesome

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