People do yoga for all kinds of reasons: to become more flexible, gain strength, lose weight and many other reasons. Mostly physical. Today I want to explore the benefits of yoga, how to improve yourself in all aspects and to be the best version of yourself. Yoga for mind, body and spirit.
Yoga for Your Body
When I first started doing yoga, my main focus was definitely improving physically. I was on the brink of 30 and it was a pretty big deal for me. Your body starts to change in small ways and it becomes more difficult to stay in shape. I have never enjoyed running or going to the gym, so this was really not an option.
I was looking for something to keep my body fit and healthy, without it feeling like punishment. Starting yoga was the most natural choice, there was a yoga studio near my house, at that point they had special offers on their memberships and everything fell in place very naturally. I wish I had this opportunity earlier! I experienced physical benefits within the first week already, the longer I practice yoga, the more benefits I experience.
The physical benefits will depend on the type of yoga you choose, how much and how long you practice yoga for.
Here are the top benefits one can experience:
– Weight loss, I have personally lost 7kg without trying.
– Increased flexibility
– Increased strength and muscle tone
– Improved respiration, energy and vitality
– Better cardio and circulatory health
– Improved metabolism
– Protection from injury
– Improved athletic performance
– Lower blood pressure
– Reduced insomnia
– Reduce chronic pain (lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and even carpal tunnel syndrome)
– Improve balance
– Reduce inflammation
– Improves posture
– Improves immunity
The many physical benefits are reason enough to try yoga, but I want people to know that yoga is not just about physical improvement. Yoga was designed with the focus on an 8 limbed path as explained in Beginner Yoga – a Guide to Understanding.
YAMA is the first limb, meaning: restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows. It can in turn be divided into 5 parts :
Aparigraha (non-coveting), Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing) and Brachmacharya (Fidelity or chastity – the correct use of energy).
NIYAMA is the second limb: positive duties or observances. It can be described as: Saucha (purity of body and mind), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (Self-discipline) – no, not the little snacks, Svadhyaya (self-study), Ishvara pranidhana (surrender to god/the divine)
ASANA – Posture. This is the limb most yoga practices focus on today and it has become of utmost importance. Achieving the perfect pose, but this is only one limb of yoga.
PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques. All my yoga teachers focus heavily on breathing techniques in their classes. I find this a great way to focus and turn my mind inward. Having full control over breathing can pose a lot of benefits.
PRATYAHARA – External stimuli withdrawal. Training the mind in stillness just for 10 minutes at first – a form of meditation. The focus is to see beyond yourself by quieting your senses.
DHARANA – The focus of intense concentration. Usually this means bringing your focus to one thing, a good way of practicing this is by bringing all your attention to the flame of a candle.
DHYANA – Meditative absorption. A profound meditation which is the penultimate stage of yoga.
SAMADHI – Bliss or enlightenment
As you can see, physical improvement is only 1 aspect of yoga.
Mind and Spirit
The longer I practiced yoga, the more I realized that it really is not about how it looks, but about how it feels. There are advanced poses and they look really cool, but there are also easier poses that are accessible to everyone and they pose the same benefits! Now that we know yoga is not only physical and we are not only physical beings, we can understand better.
It is about finding balance, self-exploration, improving yourself in ways you never knew possible and the amalgamation of mind, body and spirit. Yoga can also help with:
– better management of stress
– developing coping skills
– having a more positive outlook on life
– improving mental well-being
– improving mental clarity and calmness
– relaxing the mind
– increasing body awareness
– focusing attention
– sharpening concentration
– increasing self-esteem
– increasing inner strength
– increasing awareness
– improving relationships
– encouraging self-care
– putting you in contact with like-minded people. For me personally I have met amazing people through yoga, people that have helped me improve and heal myself.
Of course there are many more and everyone’s experience may be different. The point is that you will be a better version of yourself!
Yoga for all
Yoga does not discriminate against age, race, religion or gender. Yoga is for everyone! Finding your path, finding what works for you. Each person is different and that means each practice will be different. One asana may be really easy for one person, but really difficult for the next.
What I learned from my amazing teachers is that each asana can be adjusted according to individual needs. Know your body, know what it is and isn’t capable of. Understanding how everything serves you and letting go of the things that no longer serve you.
Also, understanding that yoga is much more than really cool looking poses and the physical body. Yoga is an inside job, self-awareness, self-exploration and self-improvement. Do yoga for mind, body and spirit, for YOUR mind, body and spirit.
No go out there and make yourself better!
I’d love to hear from you, feel free to leave a comment! How has Yoga helped you?