“The sun shines down, and its image reflects in a thousand different pots filled with water.
The reflections are many, but they are each reflecting the same sun.
Similarly, when we come to know who we truly are, we will see ourselves in all people.”
From its early origins in India, the art of yoga, practiced for centuries by those in the East, is now an accepted physical and spiritual set of disciplines here in the West.
Many now practice yoga as a way of maintaining their physical health, and, in the U.S., more than 20 million regularly take to their beloved yoga mats, either in classes, group or alone.
However, yoga is so much more than simply keeping your body trim – at its core lies a spiritual and meditative lesson for all. Yoga focuses on what’s inside, your inner self and your physical state in any given moment.
It develops breathing control, as well as developing strength within your mind and your body. It is certainly not about developing your physical appearance.
Anyone who’s met me can testify to that. Talking about me, yoga came into my life during 5 months of intensive rehab for alcohol addiction.
Gladly, this year will see my 6th sobriety birthday, and yoga has been a stable companion during that time; in particular, it has helped build my sense of self-esteem from virtually nothing to a feeling of having a rightful place in the world.
In fact, yoga has been proven to be a significant part of therapy for those with addiction and eating disorders and is considered a valuable complementary practice to the more traditional treatments, building a positive body image for those affected, in addition to enhancing feelings of self-worth.
It has other benefits too, and that is the aim of this article – to share with you the 5 great things yoga can do to enhance your life. Let’s begin.
You don’t need to take day trips to the gym or pound the sidewalks of your local neighborhood to keep yourself fit – regular yoga practice sessions will do it all for you and it has been proven too.
A research study of a small group of people who take no form of regular exercise was taught a number of yoga techniques and then took part in bi-weekly 90-minute sessions for a period of 8 weeks. The results? All had achieved:
- Greater muscle strength
- Greater endurance
- Increased flexibility, and
- Increased cardiorespiratory fitness
Additionally, yoga has been proven to literally burn calories, especially if the speed of the postures is increased.
Can you count yoga as a cardiovascular exercise, anaerobic activity where you are increasing your heart rate to the point of actually training your heart? The answer, happily, is “Yes.” Cardiovascular fitness is one of the best ways of ensuring a long, healthy life.
Studies have shown that yoga increases your “baroreceptor sensitivity,” which is your body’s mechanism for regulating blood pressure; thus, assisting those with hypertension to lower their blood pressure.
Furthermore, it has been found that yoga will improve the lipid profiles of people with diagnosed coronary artery disease, and even in healthy patients, and it lowers high blood sugar levels in those with non-insulin dependent diabetes, reducing the medicinal need.
Lastly, many cardiac rehabilitation programs have a yoga element to them, due to its ability to improve cardiovascular fitness levels.
Have you heard of the term “mindfulness?” This is the practice of focusing on what you are experiencing in the here and now, at this moment, without self-judgment. Yoga increases a person’s mindfulness, and this can be particularly important when it comes to eating.
Research studies have concluded that those who practice yoga are more likely to be mindful eaters – that is, they are far more aware of the qualities of the food and drink. Its taste, smell and texture. In other words, they enjoy what they consume more.
Practitioners of yoga, therefore, are mindful eaters and are more aware of that “full” feeling, as well as becoming hungry. The result? Yoga can help increase weight loss for those dieting as this mindfulness promotes a more positive food relationship.
One study, involving only 30 minutes of yoga per week for 4 years, found that those people involved had predominantly lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than those that did no yoga.
So far, we’ve looked at the pronounced physical benefits of yoga, and compelling they are too. However, Yoga is about the mind, first and foremost. One of the clearest examples and one that I can surely testify to myself is that of reducing stress.
Yoga brings a sense of calm into your life, a better ability to deal with the trials and tribulations of the modern world, you feel less anxious, you sleep a whole lot better, and you’re better equipped to deal with any problems you may encounter. Put simply, less stress.
Become a Yogi…
These days, my friends take great delight in their nickname for me – “Yogi Bear…” Yes, hilarious, aren’t they? However, my dedication to yoga as part of my ongoing addiction recovery is not a cartoon; it’s firmly placed in reality, because of the personal benefits, both physically and mentally, are very clear.
Yoga has been an essential part of that recovery and an integral part of my daily routine and my life today.
By becoming a yogi yourself, all of these 5 great life enhancements described above could be yours – greater general fitness and well-being, greater cardiovascular fitness, better-eating habits, weight loss, and reduced stress. Is there another benefit that you have experienced by practicing yoga, or learned of that is prompting you to try yoga yourself, that n should be included here? Please let us know in the comments below.
What’s left to say? Just breathe…