The word yoga itself means ‘to yoke’; it is the process of connecting the body, mind, and breath that is the essence of yoga, rather than the physical practice itself. In fact, the physical practice, or hatha, is only one of the six systems of yoga originally detailed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and is one of the many vehicle that brings the mind to the ultimate goal of samadhi, or transcendence. Raja (meditation), bhakti (devotion), jnana (knowledge), karma (action), kriya (cleansing techniques), and hatha (asanas) are all pathways to union, and are each suited to the different temperaments of individuals.
It’s been proven that yoga provides a wealth of benefits to anyone who practices it on a regular basis. Here are several of the key benefits many people experience.
Stress relief. Even practicing yoga for just a few minutes can rid your body and mind of the stress that has accumulated throughout your day. With the modern world being as hectic as it is, the fact that most people live sedentary lives only increases the buildup of stress in the mind. We spend the majority of the day with our attention focused on the events happening outside of ourselves.
When we take the time, even just five minutes, to focus our attention on the way our body feels, the content of our mind, and the quality of our breath, we enter into the present moment, which is a constant source of peace. And the more we take the time we take to release stress through yoga, the less stress we feel as we go about the rest of our day!
Better intuition. When we practice yoga, we activate and communicate with all the parts of our body, creating coherence in our brain and integration in our entire system. Because of this increased ability to listen to our bodies and minds, yoga and meditation have the power to improve our intuitive ability in a way that allows us to effortlessly realize what decisions are best to make. It works. You only need to experience it yourself.
Living with greater awareness. When awake, the mind is constantly involved in activity and often swings from the past to the future, causing you to miss out on the present moment. By simply being aware of this tendency of the mind, we can actually save ourselves from getting stressed or worked up and instead can relax the mind. When practicing yoga, because your attention is focused on the most present parts of yourself (your body and breath), you create a state of increased awareness, which brings the mind to the present moment, where it can stay happy and focused. You can find more information on this at the Vancouver Island website of Kathy White Yoga.
Weight loss. While yoga is not all about the body, weight loss is one inevitable effect of a regular practice. Besides being a form of exercise, yoga calms down the mind and impulsive tendencies, which leads to an enhanced ability to slow down and make healthier decisions when it comes to food. Feeling naturally calm also reduces the urge to reach for food as a reaction to stress.
Plus, as mentioned here, with a regular yoga practice we tend to become more sensitive to the kind of food our body asks for and when, which can lead to more intuitive decision-making. Sun Salutations, when practiced daily, are one of the best yogic tools for managing weight, as they work every part of the body while increasing the heart rate. More benefits of yoga can be found at osteopathic.org.
Better flexibility and posture. This one is obvious, but important! Practicing yoga regularly will automatically leave you with a body that is strong, supple and flexible. A regular yoga practice stretches and tones the muscles and helps improve posture. Yoga brings mental awareness to the body, which can lead to an increased awareness of posture throughout the day.