Yoga literally means union, this is one of the first things we hear our teachers tell us when we start practicing yoga. And even before that we’ve already been bombarded with the cliché mind, body, spirit. But in real people terms what is the connection between the poses (asanas), breathing (pranayama), philosophy, energy and Western psychology? Formally David Frawley, author of Yoga and Ayurveda says…
“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, “Why Does Yoga Help?”
Here are 5 reasons ways why yoga works:
1. Yoga Reduces Stress By Triggering The Relaxation Response
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. While the poses with breath we practice also help us release tension more importantly they teach us how to remain peaceful in the face of discomfort and challenge. We learn the art of surrender.
2. Yoga Makes Us Pay Attention
This practice makes us more self-aware physically, mentally and emotionally. We begin by paying attention to our breath and all its habits along with the cycle of our thoughts and how where we hold tension in our bodies.
3. Yoga Is A Healing Practice
The poses, conscious breathing and visualization serve as a therapy to reduce physical pain as well as emotional anxiety. Yoga reduces stress, improves sleep, reduces cortisol levels, lowers blood pressure and heart rate amongst its many physical benefits. We also 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
We unlearn patterns of being in our bodies that are hurting us. This teaches us discipline and commitment to our own health. Letting go of the habits allows us to see the possibilities more clearly.
5. Yoga Reminds Us To Be Responsible
We move from blame to a mature place of responsibility. First it starts by being responsible for your physical body: where you put your hands in downward facing dog, or how to keep your knee above your ankle in Warrior 2. And from there 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. We realize that we always are in charge of our choices in thought, words and actions.
Yogic benefits go beyond this short list but even if you appreciate these 5 ways yoga helps that is more than enough to experience the best life ever!