10 things yoga can do for you (and they’re not what you think)

My gorgeous friend Charmaine is exactly what you’d imagine a dedicated yoga teacher to be. No no, she doesn’t have an obsession with lululemon, that’s not what I mean. I mean she’s exactly as calm, centered, caring and glowing as you’d imagine someone with over a decade of yoga practice under her belt to be.
11th benefit? via yogawithciara

Me? I’ve practiced yoga, albeit without any dedication whatsoever, on and off for 10 years (consequently I don’t have the glow). When I’m on, I’m calmer, happier, more flexible and more centered. When I’m off, I’m telling myself I should get back in to yoga.

It’s not the ability to touch my toes that I miss… it’s the feeling of being ‘alright’ which practicing yoga gives you. If you’re a yoga bunny yourself, you’d know what I mean. Truth is, yoga is about more than downward facing dogs and salutations to the sun and learning how to breathe out of one nostril at a time. It gives you something more than good balance and a flexi spine. I wanted to get to the bottom of what yoga can really offer, so I asked the lovely Charmaine, who blogs her yoga musings over at The Yoga Files, to share her insights… she is a self-confessed yoga nerd afterall:

Glowing Skin and Hair 
The health of your skin and hair can be affected by poor diet and emotional stress. Practicing pranayama, or the breathing exercises that form part of yoga, can slowly help you remove physical and emotional blockages in your body, over time giving you healthier skin and hair. In fact, one of the oldest texts on yoga, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, lists vadane prasannata - a beautiful glowing face - as one of the many benefits of pranayama exercises.

Quit your bad habits
We all have a few bad habits, right? Maybe you want to drink a little less alcohol, eat a little less chocolate or spend less money on clothes?  Sometimes no matter how hard you try, it seems impossible to change.  Yoga can help you understand which habits are causing you harm and gradually, with continued practice, you can gain the motivation required to kick those bad habits for good.

Build Happy Habits 
The flip side to letting go of harmful habits is growing room to build positive ones.  Stopped eating and craving sugar? Have more energy and stable moods? Hey presto! You suddenly have more time and energy to spend on doing the things you love. And doing the things you love provides you with nourishment, more energy and, dare I say it, happiness :).

Conquer your Fear
 
Where does fear come from? The reasons for our fears are complex. Sometimes we fear failure, other times our fear is based on a past experience. We hold these fears within us and they can cause blockages within us, interrupting the flow of ‘prana’ (a life force similar to the concept of ‘chi’ in Chinese medicine).  Over time, practicing asana (poses), pranayama and other yoga techniques removes these blockages and allows prana to flow more smoothly around your body.  Once the blockages (and the fears they are based on) start to dissolve, the opposite of fear – faith and self-confidence – begins to grow.  

As your faith/self-confidence grows you’re able to let go of more and more past fears, and you’re able to do things you never thought you’d be able to do. 

Let Go of Expectations 
Yoga philosophy tells us that one of the sure fire ways to reduce suffering is to let go of expectations. This idea goes hand in hand with the notion of ‘I’ll do my best and whatever happens, happens.’  Want that new job? Great, go for it! Write a great application and do your best in the interview.  But don’t spend every hour of the day worrying about the outcome.  Yoga helps you remain one or two steps removed from your actions, so that you don’t see your entire future wrapped up in one outcome, like one unsuccessful or successful job interview.

Respond don’t React 
Ever wish you hadn’t said ‘that thing’ to your best friend, partner or work colleague? Yoga gives you the ability to take some time and decide on an appropriate response. I guess we could say it lays the foundation for a pause button.  It doesn’t mean you don’t get angry, feel sad or want to throttle your best friend for forgetting your birthday. You’re just a little clearer and calmer in conveying your emotions.

More Focused by the Minute 
Yoga describes five different states of the mind:
·         ksibita: the restless state, when you are jumping from thought to thought constantly
·         mudha: a dull, heavy state, when you feel weighed down by lethargy
·         viksipta: a state of distraction, where you are sometimes focused but you lose the focus quickly
·         ekagra: when you are focused on one thing for a long length of time
·         nirodha: when you are fully engaged and focused on one thing, no possibility of distraction.

Yoga can help us spend more time in the focused states of ekagra and nirodha. And, happily, less time feeling like our mind is weighed down by a ton of bricks, or bouncing off the walls with so much energy we can’t control any thought or action!

Space and Time

In a recent survey, 40% of Australians said that just trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle was a source of stress.  Yoga helps you slow down, observe yourself and  decide on what you really need to do in that week, day, hour or minute.  This gives a feeling of more time and space.  And as you start to stop doing the things that are not helping you, you gain more time to do the things you love and make you healthy.

Listen to Yourself
Why is it that sometimes you do the very thing you don’t want to do, and ignore the very thing you do want to do? As you start to become more focused and slow down a little, there is another lovely benefit that emerges - you start to listen to yourself.

You don’t want to go to your second cousins dog’s birthday party? Much rather catch up with your friends? No problem, you politely give your apologies to the birthday dog and make the long overdue lunch date with friends.

Know Thyself
Dropping bad habits, nurturing positive habits, overcoming your fears, being more focused and really listening to yourself . . . what’s does this all lead too? Probably the best little known benefit of yoga. You slowly start to really know yourself; what you like and don’t like, and what is going to make you happy versus what is going to create stress and unhappiness for you.

Armed with this information you can make good decisions for yourself. And if now and then you take a wrong turn? No stress, because you’re also cultivating detachment so you don’t get too hung up on mistakes. You simply listen to the lesson and keep moving.

The Yoga Sutra tells us that all of these benefits are open to us when yoga practice is followed with dedication and a positive attitude, and (of course!) with detachment from results.

Are you a yoga fan? What have you learned or gained from practicing yoga? And don't forget to check out Charmaine's beautiful blog The Yoga Files.




7 comments:

  1. this is making a lot of sense to me. less wild wandering, more eing home and centered
    and
    serious time for yoga [which i know can be done while wandering, is just that i need to lay the foundations for practice first].
    posts like this remind me that it should be a priority, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. and if i had slowed down i would have noticed the typo above

    i meant

    being

    not

    eing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha, love it. Slowing down is one of the best changes I made to my life. You notice more and enjoy more. Better life.

      Delete
  3. Love this... and totally understand - I've been doing yoga on and off for the last 3-4 years too and every time I am off, I miss it like crazy.

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  4. I started yoga 5 months ago and attend between 2 and 4 classes a week.Far out - to say I'm hooked is an understatement. I come home from every session so happy that my husband said "Thats it, I want in!". I would literally float through the door with a dreamy happy grin - I started sleeping more soundly and was generally just nicer to be around. How could he not be intrigued. Ben has been joining me at yoga class for almost a month now and is hooked on the same happy feelings he witnessed me experience. I (actually we) can't ever imagine life without yoga now - I've never felt so passionte about something I do for myself. I've never felt this strong or empowered. We have a private session once a week and even our kids join in! I want them to grow up thinking yoga is just a normal part of life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love this and love that your kids get involved! Thank you for sharing.

      Delete
  5. I agree yoga can help us to quite bad habit and build happy habits and stay active. I also do this exercise daily with my friends.back pain and neck pain

    ReplyDelete

 

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