In this post, Level 1 Life contributing author Christine Wilcox, M.S., shares her top five reasons to practice yoga. Christine is a 200-hour Certified Yoga Instructor and Holistic Health Coach in Syracuse, NY. If you have questions for Christine, let us know on our “Connect” page!
There are many different styles of yoga from Hatha to Vinyasa to Kundalini to Restorative to Iyengar. A growing body of research supports yoga’s abundant benefits. Every teacher has his or her own unique way of delivering the teachings of the ancient art and science of yoga. To get the most benefit and enjoyment out of your practice, it is important to find a yoga style and a teacher that is right for you. At its core, yoga is a practice of self-care. We call it a practice because with time, effort, and patience one begins to acquire and maintain mastery over the Self. Committing to a regular yoga practice can have a profound impact on overall health and well being, ultimately resulting in a happier and more peaceful life.
Physical Well Being
Yoga teaches us the importance of maintaining proper balance between strength and flexibility, movement and stillness, holding on and letting go. Yoga is beneficial for all of the organ systems of the body. It has been shown to increase lung capacity, blood flow, and metabolism, enhance digestive and immune function, and promote healing. Healthy movement of the spine is key to longevity! Practicing yoga improves and maintains range of motion, joint mobility, and posture. Show your spine some love by practicing yoga poses that work the movements of the spine through forward folds, back bends, side bends, and twists. Plus physical activity creates endorphins – feel good chemicals in the brain that foster relaxation and lead to improved cognitive function and sleep. Yoga can even improve your sex life!
Mental Well Being
The true benefits of yoga lie beyond the physical postures. The yoga poses were originally developed to strengthen the body while calming the mind to enable the yoga practitioner to sit for longer periods of time in meditation. Longer periods of meditation calm the nervous system and allow us to get in touch with the deeper aspects of who we are. The cognitive health benefits of yoga and meditation include increased self-awareness, mental clarity, focus, and concentration.
Emotional Well Being
Many people consider practicing yoga as a way to reduce stress. A morning yoga session can set a positive tone for the rest of the day. Yoga has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety, depression, and fatigue while also enhancing mood, self-esteem, and self-acceptance. Over time, the yoga mat becomes a refuge where we can unplug and break free from the busyness of every day life. A regular practice can help us to better manage our stress, gain greater control over our emotions, and become more aware and present when conflict arises.
Working, multi-tasking, productivity…doing has become prevalent in our society. Most of the time we are on “autopilot” with our thoughts focused on past or future events, likes and dislikes, and our never-ending to-do list. The nature of the mind to think, analyze, and judge has been an important part of our adaptation and survival, but it can also be the source of our limitation and suffering. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as, “Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” Said another way, mindfulness is being present to the current moment without clinging to it or pushing it away. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that brings us back to our body and our breath, helping us to overcome the noise of the mind and experience greater joy and ease in our lives. This moment is the only moment we ever have to truly live, love, laugh, and create. The gift of presence is the greatest gift we can give to someone – including ourselves.
Through the practice of yoga we enter a state of being where we are more vibrant, imaginative, skillful, intuitive, loving, and kind. When we are quiet and mindful, we become more intimate with the innate wisdom within that knows what our hearts truly long for. We begin to trust the unfolding of our lives, growing closer to finding the source of true joy and inner peace. This inner wisdom will give us all of the answers we will ever need.
The light within me honors the light within you