In western societies, often when yoga is discussed it mainly refers to the stretching and pose sequence of yoga, but there are other beneficial aspects of yoga that you can practice! These principles promote physical and mental health as well as spiritual growth.
This refers to the Asanas, meaning the poses of yoga. Our bodies are meant to move and exercise daily. For more on the benefits of exercise go here. To prevent disease, obesity, and discomfort, exercise is essential. Exercise develops the muscles creating a stronger and more flexible body. Yoga focuses on the strength and flexibility of the spine. Exercise should be incorporated into an individual’s daily life. Exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous to produce health benefits. Even becoming moderately active, such as gardening, walking the dog or cleaning the house has health benefits. The category of exercise is often most focused on in western societies that practice yoga. (Yoga classes, and dvd’s). Really getting the bang for your buck in yoga involves incorporating all 5 aspects of yoga into your life.
Yoga involves controlling the breath. Breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmic. This increases mental clarity, much like meditation. In daily life, most people breathe shallowly, barely expanding the ribcage, with hunched shoulders, especially when we are stressed and tense. This creates painful tension in the upper back and neck. Abdominal breathing is commonly used in yoga. Abdominal breathing brings air into the lowest part of the lungs, breathing is slow and deep and the abdomen expands as you inhale and falls as you exhale. Full yogi breathing involves breathing into the abdomen, then the ribcage and then the upper portion of the lungs. Then, breathing out in the same manner. Breathing this way involves practice as it is sometimes hard to do while holding asanas, but practice makes perfect. Never hold your breath in a pose that means you should back off. Don’t forget to breathe in inversions also.
Deep relaxation is also an important aspect of yoga. Modern triggers of stress often produce tension in the muscles, but deep relaxation can relax all of the deep muscles and rejuvenate the nervous system and create deep inner peace. Constantly overworking the body diminishes our work efficiency. Modern social life, food, work, school, and entertainment make is hard for us to relax. During relaxation we are conserving energy. There are different aspects of yogi relaxation that include:
Relaxing the body, such as in savasana. The body is often reacting to our stressful thoughts, relaxing the body allows it to rest and restore itself.
Allowing the mind to calm and release all of the negative thoughts and emotions plaguing the brain. Breathing slowly and rhythmically creates a calm and peaceful mind.
All worries and stresses cannot be completely eliminated, until reaching spiritual relaxation. Withdrawing from the mind and the ego can get rid of these tensions.
The foods we eat profoundly affect our mind. Very spiritual yogis will often adopt a vegetarian diet that consists of pure, simple, natural foods that are easy to digest and promote health. One who seriously takes to the path of yoga would avoid ingesting meats, fish, eggs, tea (except herbal), alcohol and drugs. You do not have to become a full vegetarian to get the benefits of this principle. Some adaptations to adopt are:
Limiting saturated fats, found in high amounts in animal products can help prevent cardiovascular disease. More on cardiovascular disease, click here.
Limiting soda, and caffeine intake
Increasing fruit and vegetable intake
Consuming more water
Avoiding trans fats, often found in cakes, icing, pastries and pre-boxed foods
Purchasing food around the perimeter of the grocery store, focusing on produce
Decreasing excessive high glycemic carbohydrates
For more practical health tips click here.
Positive thinking and meditation
Probably the most important component of yoga, positive thinking. We become and do what we think. Thus, we should strive to become calm, peaceful, positive individuals. The mind can be brought under control by practicing meditation. How to meditate click here. Adding positive thoughts and brief meditation practices throughout the day, helps create a positive and calm mindset. Not ruminating over negative experiences, in the past or future can prevent you from becoming negative and stressed. Focus on the now and what is going on around you. Notice all of the positive things in your life, around you, your environment, outdoors and in nature. There is always something positive that you can focus on, even if it is just the birds chirping outside or your dog playing with his stuffed animal. Feel the sun shine on your face and soak up this positivity!
Have any comments, tips or ticks you use to incorporate yoga into your daily life? Comment below!