Yoga has grown in popularity over the past few years and is evolving even as I write this article. Studios opening up all around offering different styles of yoga. But what are the reasons for this interest in a 5000 year old practice? Much of the attention is for the health benefits from a regular yoga practice. Not just the physical ability to become more flexible but also the emotional and psychological benefits. We can learn more about ourselves by having a good yoga practice on the mat while in the studio, then taking what we learn off the mat and use in everyday life outside the studio. Yoga and life can be viewed as reflections of each other. They are both journeys, which can be taken in harmony.
Many folks start yoga because of the physical benefits. Trying to find alternative ways to relieve aches and pains that have occurred in the body. An accident, a sports injury or just the inactivity of our life style may have created unwelcomed pains in areas that we did not expect. To improve our physical body, we must learn to connect with our mind; yoga instructors refer to this as body awareness. Learning to activate the muscles around the bones and keep the body in balance provides for greater alignment and safety for the joints. Focusing the mind helps us connect to the body. This is body awareness. Off the mat we can use this practice to make corrections in the body that might be causing pain and make adjustments to help the body heal or avoid injury.
The psychological aspect of yoga is how we think about ourselves and the world around us. A good yoga practice will teach us patience, kindness, and humility towards ourselves. We all have thoughts which help us make decisions but there are also the “voices” that tell us that we are not good enough or create worry. Yoga is all about being in the present moment, taming the “voices” and creating a positive inner peace to deal with the outer world. Being in the present moment allows focus and clarity in the mind. Making peace with the past, by staying present, will reflect a better future. This is done on the mat by focusing on your practice. Off the mat we will be more patient with ourselves and others.
Many of our emotions are “issues in our tissues,” as said by one of my teachers during a class. Studies show that our emotions are deep rooted in our bodies not just our minds. Many times an injury is caused during a time of great mental stress and attack the weaker areas of the body. Yoga can help with some of these stuck emotions by relieving the area of pain. Off the mat we can change how we deal with the “drama” around us by changing out thoughts. Managing a positive respond to issues and events will keep our body healthier.
Yoga can be a way of life on and off the mat. It is a path to a healthier lifestyle connecting the mind, body and spirit. The next time you step on your mat, really be in the moment; stop the toxic “monkey mind” and think only positive thoughts. When you step off your mat bring the serenity with you into the world outside. Smile and think positive thoughts and change the health of your body.
Published in Project Light and Love the 2017 winter issue. Written by Brenda Stone