What is yoga, exactly? Is it just an exercise form? Is it a religion, a philosophy, an ideology? Or is it something else entirely? The word “yoga” literally means “union”.
The concept of creating union can be expressed in a way that our lives are an energetic combination of body, mind and spirit. The physical action of the yoga poses challenge us to create balance, strength and flexibility. In which we use awareness of our breath and concentration to help create that internal silence. This stillness, balance, strength and flexibility can then be applied to our everyday life.
Yoga creates more calmness making dealing with the stresses in our lives more manageable. We obtain more control over our reactions, awareness and overall connection with ourself as well as others. It also has the ability to evoke a sense of wholeness, balance and this calmness (we speak of) and allows us to attract more of that into our life.
“Yoga is stilling the fluctuations of the mind. Then one abides in their own true nature.”
The beautiful thing about yoga is there are very few limitations to start. Sure some supportive blocks, straps, fancy mats and the perfect outfit are nice, you really don’t need any of that “stuff”. What you need is simple – a basic yoga routine (try our Yoga #1 from our AV Coaching) that has beginner poses and is easy to follow.
Remember to listen to your own body! Yoga is all about connecting with yourself – this is especially easy to do with at-home practices. However, sometimes when we are in a full class we spend more time worrying about how we look, or what others are thinking that we are not able to connect with ourself. If this sounds like you – Stop it! You might be surprised if you actually knew how much others really cared if your pony tail was messy, or that you’re trembling in the legs – trying to make the pose “perfect”! Enough already… yoga is a great opportunity to let go of our ego and accept ourselves – hear that “accept” who we truly are!
So if that’s not enough convincing – let’s look at our top 10 ways yoga can benefit your life:
One benefit that you get from doing regular Yoga is that you strengthen your muscles. Yoga involves a lot of positions and movements that force you to hold up your body weight in one way or another which helps build that physical strength. There are always ways to progress of regress this type of strengthening. For instance you could incorporate more balancing poses into your practice to not only challenge your balance but coordination as well. These can also be very mentally challenging.
These first few points are being listed because yes you do benefit in these ways, and they are likely the most popular reason people start practicing yoga. However, we hope that by the end of this you will realize theres a lot more depth than just our physical appearance 😉
So, weight loss – If you are consistent with yoga, you will notice weight loss especially if you were not very active before. Again, there are advanced techniques like learning Kapalbhati pranayama (a breathing technique) as it increases our metabolism. Also after you practice for a bit you will tend to become more sensitive to the kind of food your body asks for, the time you eat and the connection you have with it.
Yoga can prevent and control digestive issues (such as irritable bowel syndrome) and can help you digest food better even if you do have a healthy digestive system. This is because Yoga involves a lot of twisting poses that cause your bowels and intestines to contract and loosen. And well with a healthy gut we are able to absorb nutrients from those good food choices we make – much easier.
So this one is also categorized with the first 2 being a typical (and good) reason to start yoga. So how does it relieve stress?
I am sure you can agree, emotional stress can manifest as physical stress, especially in the neck and shoulder areas (at least the most common with people). The physical aspect of yoga helps us release this tension. However, sometimes this pain/tension can quickly spread throughout our bodies, especially in our backs and hips, this is where “twisting” poses can help. By incorporating twists we get more movement through our spine and it relates to our nervous system. Not to mention when we move – our body releases hormones that make us simply – feel better.
That covers our our body now how does it help us mentally? Yoga targets stress are by lifting your mood (or positive affect), by allowing for increased mindfulness, and by increasing self-compassion. By simultaneously getting us into better moods, enabling us to be more focused on the present moment, and by encouraging us to give to ourselves and give ourselves a break.
It’s easy to be present and peaceful when we are on vacation, watching a sunset or sitting by the lake at the cottage. The truth is that you can find this same inner peace within yourself. You learn ways to create such stillness and quietness and allow yourself to just be, anywhere. Meditation is a great tool to connect with your inner self.
Improves your Immunity
Yoga is an incredible tool to strengthen your immune system – because it helps to drain your lymphatic system. When we drain our lymphatic system we create room for “new” fluid (which our body creates) to flush through and this new fluid is much more effective at disposing our body of toxic chemicals and waste, killing cancer cells, and fighting off infection in general.
We say it a lot but it’s true – we live in a fast paced world. Often if you observe your thoughts they are bouncing from the past to the future, very rarely are we PRESENT. Yoga and pranayama help us develop this sense of awareness and brings the mind back to the present moment, where we are more observant of our reactions and surroundings and are able to stay happy and focused.
Makes You Happier and Benefits Relationships
Yoga is shown to increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are shown to make you feel happier, decrease anxiety, and help manage depression. By practicing Yoga we connect and learn to love ourselves, we find self acceptance, awareness and are more sensitive to our own needs. When we acknowledge these aspects we have more to offer others. Through Yoga we experience a lot of opening and releasing so when we apply it to relationships it teaches us to stay open and receptive. We learn to reduce our “reactivity” allowing us to soften and be less defensive. This shift can have a huge positive impact on any relationship.
“Only when we deepen our appreciation of ourselves, and what we have to offer, can we begin to truly appreciate and truly support and love another. When you begin a relationship with someone it is the relationship with your self that continues to deepen as you learn to share your space with a partner.” Ravi Singh
When we practice specific pranayama (breathing) we learn to breathe more deeply, which means our blood receives waves of fresh oxygen which is key to increasing energy levels and revitalizing your whole system. If we incorporate poses that require balance (which we mentioned earlier, sharpens your focus and awareness) it leads us to a greater sense of confidence and power. Other poses that stimulate the blood flow through the body – particularly those that involve the spine.
“As we sit throughout the day, the energy in the spine gets stuck and stagnant,” Bielkus says. “So when we elongate the spine, it energizes the nervous system. That’s why the back bends are so invigorating. And when you’re moving in a back-bending way, you’re also bringing more emphasis to the heart and opening up the chest muscles, which really opens up the body.”
Better Flexibility & Posture
You are probably surprised that this was not listed at the top… that’s because we really want people to start to have a deeper association with yoga and use it for these benefits but more so to develop more self-love and awareness.
With a regular, daily practice we can definitely notice more flexibility with our body. More powerful than that it often corrects our posture. This is an important dimension of health, which doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Your posture influences the alignment of the spine and thereby the overall health of your body. The spine is the central channel of the nervous system, and when your spine is healthy, opening the pathways of our nervous system, allowing a fundamental flow of energy to flow – so you can achieve vitality and well-being.
Intuition gives us the ability to know something without analyzing or reasoning with it, it fills that space between conscious and non-conscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason.
Think of your intuition as your guide – available 24/7. We need to continue to charge and reprogram it with the correct data we seek.
What do we mean by this? Take a moment and ask yourself this following question:
How do I speak to myself?
Are you often saying things like ‘I am always sick’ or ‘I love being healthy’? Its up to you to choose your inner dialogue and language – so become more conscious of it. How we think and what we say can have a large impact on what we are telling the Universe. Sure, practice and patience are the key, master those and it will be worth it. Intuition is available to everyone, it’s just learning to recognize and listen to it.
So whether you have been practicing yoga for a while or are new to it all together, or maybe are now convinced to give it a try – wonderful! It’s honestly hard to put into words how profound yoga really is and what a great positive impact it can have on your life.
If you find yourself not able to dedicate time to a full practice, learn to adopt ways where you can connect and be present and reap the benefits of that. Or if you haven’t already we suggest trying our 1 minute guided meditation. I think you owe it to yourself to slow down and connect for at LEAST on minute 😉
With love and gratitude,