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Benefits of Yoga You Didn’t Know About

Benefits of Yoga You Didn’t Know About

Yoga is often seen as an exercise that will help you get flexible, strong, age gracefully, improve balance, and combat stress.

Although this is all true, I have found the most profound benefits are those that happen at a deeper level. With over seven years of teaching experience, I’ve learned that the most profound benefits of yoga you may not know about are:

1. Deeper Awareness and Enhanced Listening Skills

So many of us are accustomed to telling our body what to do, without giving it credit for all it does for us and how we are actually feeling in the moment. We live at a rapid pace where it’s not customary to ask our body how it feels. Rather we force, shove, and push our bodies to do things that may be the opposite of healthy and helpful for our body and mind. The practice of yoga is primarily focused around sharpening our awareness of our body and giving gratitude for all that our body does for us.

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So many of us get angry when our body can’t do as many push ups as we want, or move as fast as we’d like. It’s rare to take a moment and thank our body for all that is does for us,(such as the daily acts of living so many of us take for granted). When we start to slow down, and tune in to our body, we gain a keener sense of awareness for what our body can do, and we learn to treat it with respect. Instead of forcing our body into a shape it’s not meant to go into, we learn to listen to what our body is telling us, and to act appropriately based on that feedback.

The longer you practice yoga, the more you start to learn that the practice has nothing to do with how far you can get into a pose. It has everything to do with how present you are while in the pose, and actually listening to the feedback your body gives you. In effect, yoga helps sharpen our listening skills.

2. Acceptance and Self Love

There are many poses that are extremely difficult to get into. It may look easy on the outside but can be deeply challenging from the inside. For example, a simple forward bend can be challenging and we may even feel embarrassed that we cannot touch our toes. However, the practice of yoga has nothing to do with touching our toes. If you think about it, there is no reason on earth to touch your toes. You will not be any healthier or happier if you do.

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However, in our goal-oriented society, it makes sense that people want to reach a “maximum” point of a pose based on what is illustrated on the cover of a yoga magazine. Although misguided, it makes sense that most of us strive to look like the cover of a magazine, when in actuality, we don’t even know why we want that. It’s a psychological conditioning that makes us think we are not good enough the way we are, and if only we can perfect a pose then we might like ourselves better. The truth is, nothing you do on the outside will make you like yourself better. It needs to come from the inside.

The yoga practice has a great way of teaching us this is, if we choose to practice in a thoughtful manner. In yoga the main practice is to learn to practice acceptance for where your body is in this moment, and to give love and thanks for all that your body can do for you. As you begin to practice this on your mat, this philosophy begins to pour into your life leading to greater self acceptance and self love in every area of your life.

This is one of many reasons why yoga is so powerful. Although yoga is not goal oriented, perhaps if there was a “goal” to yoga it would be greater self-love. As we enhance the love for ourselves, we can send that love out to the world. This is where the transformation of yoga lives. When we treat ourselves better through acting compassionately and with love to ourselves, we are then able to give this kind of compassion and love to everyone around us. This is the power and ultimate benefit of yoga.

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 3. Less Reactive and More Peaceful

Most people have natural reactions when thing don’t go the way we plan. For example, you might find that you swear or get angry if you someone cuts you off in traffic. You might feel depressed when you have a fight with a family member, and then elated when you get your hair cut or make a new purchase. The practice of yoga teaches us to find a more peaceful steady balance no matter what is happening. Thus if you are in a pose that is challenging and you feel like you can barely do it, your state of mind is still peaceful which is represented by the calm and steady breath.

Likewise, if you are in the maximum stretch of a pose, instead of feeling like you are better than everyone else, the idea is to maintain that same deep calm breath, whether you love or hate the pose you are in. Through training ourselves to maintain a steady breath and steady state of mind no matter what comes our way in the yoga class, the same psychological principles start to make their way into our life. Life will always have ups and downs, but at the core, the question is: can you maintain a steady grace? Even through the moments of happiness and sadness, can you maintain a deep sense of stability and humility no matter what comes your way? This is the kind of deep peace that a continued yoga practice starts to create, if you practice with a mentality of awareness. Awareness is key. Having the intention to practice being peaceful, less reactive, and more harmonious with your body, and releasing your need to compete, is where the greatest benefit resides.

The truth is you can go to yoga and strengthen your ego, your reactions, your vanity, and self-hatred. Or you can consciously go into yoga with the mental mindset that in this room you will practice being present, gentle, kind, and listening to your body’s feedback. The real benefit of yoga is truly determined by the mental mindset you choose to sculpt and strengthen.

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There is no secret, the greatest benefit of yoga is in the mentality you chose. So before going to your next yoga class, (or if you’re brand new), all you really need to know is that you are perfect as you are. Allow the class to be an opportunity to take care of your body, to practice listening to what your body is telling you, and to let go of your need to compete, judge, and criticize. All you need to do is show up, be present, and to the best of your ability listen to your body (even if that means ignoring the teachers instructions!)

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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