Yoga is a lifestyle, and it teaches us to look within, rather than look for answers outside of ourselves. Many people practice yoga for physical reasons – yes, it’s a good stretching exercise, a great workout, and can be a powerful tool for weight loss; but is that all that yoga is? What other benefits of yoga exist that set it apart from other forms of exercise and fitness?
The history of yoga begins 5,000 years ago, in the Indian culture. At it's roots, yoga philosophy has very little to do with the body and a physical exercise routine. Sacred communities would practice rituals for spiritual development for centuries to come. Later, the practice spread around the globe and other cultures began practicing. As yoga evolved and developed, different ideas and beliefs were merged, and it was realized that spiritual awakening is as a sum of cumulative factors put together like puzzle pieces. It’s not only one idea or focus that matters; it’s a multitude of ideas. The physical piece of yoga is an important piece, but it's merely one of several puzzle pieces.
So, why is yoga more than just a workout? Are there any compelling reasons for it? Does yoga really help us achieve a higher state of mind?
Let’s look at four reasons behind these claims that yoga has benefits other than just exercise related ones.
1. Increased Awareness and Presence
Practicing yoga will increase your awareness level. During yoga sessions, we have the opportunity to forget about our phones, social media, and daily worries. We can concentrate on accepting ourselves and our surroundings as they are. There are less distractions and we can glimpse greater understanding of the world as it is. We live in the present moment, and that’s it. We live.
Right now, close your eyes (if you're able to where you're reading this) and take 3 slow and deep breaths. Breathe in, breathe out. Notice if your mind got quieter and you feel more present. Yoga can help us deepen this feeling of greater awareness and presence.
Special note for greater presence: Try practicing yoga in the morning, when there are less distractions. Mornings are quiet, providing the perfect environment for meditating and concentrating on ourselves.
2. Yoga is about Acceptance, not Competition
Yoga is not a competitive sport or even always about progress. It's not about what the person next to you in class is doing, or proving anything to anyone. It's a deeply personal practice, that can allow you to understand and accept yourself.
Yoga teaches you to accept yourself and your body as you are. It also teaches you to accept your fears, anxieties, and confront them. Storing these feelings at the back of your mind and forgetting about them is avoidance and can be more detrimental in the long run. It can be easier to not deal with our problems, but yoga brings you face to face with yourself. The practice can give you the strength to accept whatever challenges are within you or in your life. From there, you can move through these emotions. Accepting yourself makes you stronger and yoga can help in this process.
While many other exercise forms are individual, there is often a focus on progress, or competition. Other competitive sports, are not focused on acceptance, but rather on winning.
3. Yoga can Teach Valuable Life-Lessons
Yoga can relate to absolutely everything in our lives. The concepts learned in yoga sessions can be life-lessons, with a far reaching impact off of your mat. These teachings can help us not only become better people, but can possibly increase our chances of getting promoted, improve our relationships with the people around us, and boost our financial situation in the long-run. Being mindful and present, we will be able to focus better on each of our tasks, and become more efficient. Yoga can be essential in increasing productivity. Thus, great results and benefits will follow.
While exercise may provide breakthroughs in other areas of life, yoga's emphasis on mindfulness can truly change our thinking, which then changes our life experience.
4. Better Holistic Health
“Mens sana in corpore sano,” or “a healthy mind in a healthy body” – ever heard that before? This is a Latin saying that emphasizes how connected the body and mind are. Yoga strengthens both physical and mental health and takes a more holistic body, mind, and soul, approach to health.
Soon after practicing yoga, you might feel the need to change your diet and habits. Drinking excessively and eating junk food might not feel as good. You may also feel the need to eat healthier and (usually) less than before. Simply put, yoga has the power to make us more mindful about our life choices, dietary options, and physical exercise. As you become healthier as a whole, both your body and your mind benefit.
While exercising has tremendous benefits on the health, yoga's approach is more encompassing of your being a whole (not just a body). It's not solely focused on physical health, but connecting and strengthening physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Yoga is more than just a workout for many reasons. It not only increases our spirituality, allows us to take a deeper look within ourselves, but it also helps us accept our fears and emotions, and confront them. On top of that, the teachings we learn in yoga can have an impact in many domains in our lives, including personal and professional ones.
By Laura Buckler
Laura Buckler is a highly motivated freelance writer and contributor at Essays.ScholarAdvisor. She uses her personal drive to show how everyone could recognize and realize their potential by taking a simplistic view of life. Follow Laura on Twitter.
Practice these yoga classes for more than just a physical workout, and enjoy the more holistic benefits of yoga mentioned above.
Deep, Slow, & Mindful Flow with Keith Allen
Empowerment Flow 1: I Think I Can with Jackie Casal Mahrou
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