From ambitious career aspiration to family demands, to stress in school or college, worries about our environment, financial insecurity, coping with aging, fighting life-threatening diseases and myriads of other triggers – we live in a “stress bubble”. Honestly, not everyone lives in this bubble but much of modern society does and it’s getting beyond control for some people. We have become more physically and emotionally unfit, and social media and smartphones constantly connect us with the world yet we are also disconnected from one another. Work, home and school stress seem to be at an all-time high with the incidence of stress related disease rising.
We are so busy living in our heads, in all the big events that may happen in the future, in all the vacations we will take one day, in that huge special occasion that is going to happen after we achieve our dream.We forget to be here and present. We forget that today our heart was beating in the morning and we were breathing and aren’t these such miracles? We forget the smell and freshness of dawn, the beauty of a spectacular sunset, the refreshing cool breeze, the mouth-watering flavor of the our favorite foods, the voices of the kids, the sound of the waves, the healing capacity of walking barefoot on a lawn. We forget that we can walk,jump,run,talk and sing and aren’t these such miracles?
Yoga unlocks the magic within us and around us! It makes us realize that the special occasion is here and now, in every little daily miracle, in every flower than opens and goes back to sleep at sunset.It makes us realize that we don’t need to achieve anything, that we came here to just to BE and not DO all the time! As Rolf Gates wrote, "Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are." The practice of yoga is not about touching the toes, doing a backbend, handstand, or even about gaining greater happiness and joy. Yoga aims towards transcendence of all those things. In a culture in which we are multitasking and in a constant rat-race with non-stop to-do lists lingering in our heads,Yoga opens up the possibility of connecting to what we already have and to who we already are.
Yoga improves blood circulation, digestion and metabolism, improves joint health and muscle tone, relieves muscle pain and tension, calms down the central nervous system just to list a few benefits. When high levels of cortisol are secreted within the bloodstream, stress levels rise and there is a higher propensity for anxiety and depression. Yoga has been proven to reduce the level of cortisol. Researchers recommend the use of yoga for its abilities to act as an anti-depressant on its own and to act as a catalyst to enhance the results of actual medication. Yoga facilitates a state of deep calm and reflection, otherwise absent in the materialist, fast-paced world where people have forgotten how to delve into a journey within themselves. Yoga cultivates greater self-awareness and mindfulness through teaching us how to control our breathing, thus making us more aware of your surroundings, our body, our actions and most importantly, our mind. By being able to focus on our breath, we are better able to be present, calm and fully engaged in the daily routine of our life.
As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron explains, "Practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. We recognize our capacity to relax with the clarity, the space, the open-ended awareness that already exists in our minds. We experience moments of being right here that feel simple, direct, and uncluttered." People say I am not flexible enough or young enough or strong enough to do Yoga. Saying you are not "– enough" for Yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a bath. Yoga is not about attaining the perfect pose. We need to modify the pose to feel comfortable in our own body and that changes from day to day. We can use props to enhance our capability of getting into the poses and staying in them. It’s not about being "good enough" or "perfect". Yoga is about removing any judgments and letting us be present to who we are now.
Post-yoga, we feel calmer and more aware of our body, and this flows into everything that we do: how we work and relate to others, how we eat,walk,sit and sleep, how we look at our own life and the challenges that we face. We increase our focus and concentration through rhythmic, focused breathing in Yoga. We gain strength, stamina, balance and stability as we practice holding the poses for longer duration. Yoga improves posture by opening tight areas of the body like the shoulders and muscles of the back. You are as young as your spine is and Yoga helps with maintaining agility, mobility and strength in the spine. A healthy lifestyle starts with a relaxed and healthy mind and body which can be achieved through the regular and consistent practice of Yoga. The external stressors will always be present in our lives. So we need a strong foundation of connecting with our inner strength and power through the daily practice of Yoga!
Thank you Sherry for your kind words! I have written another article on how Yoga has helped me. You may enjoy reading that here corespirit.com/articles/10-reasons-why-i-prac…
Wow, your article is very motivating! Could you please tell me how yoga changed you? It would be very interesting for me to read your personal story of transformations :)