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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 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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