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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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