Yoga brings the most benefit to those with an open heart. It is about so much more than gaining flexibility and burning calories. To connect body and mind, using your breath as a stabilizing force is an experience that can bring inner calm and internal understanding. Yoga can be a life changing experience and there are many stories to be told of change and acceptance through yoga.
My own journey to self-love came after an emotional breakup. I was trying to heal my heart with booze and bad choices. I was weak, sad, broken and I eventually ended up in hospital.
My true recovery started with yoga. I remember nervously stepping into a studio for my first class and the unexpected serenity I felt being there. I connected with my own eyes in the mirror and gradually brought myself back to strength and began to hate myself less. Now, years later, every time I step onto my mat I still make that promise to accept myself as I am and feel gratitude for every little thing in life.
There many elements that make up the practice of yoga and each have unique benefits to body and mind.
Belief: This comes down to the most basic principle of happiness: self worth and confidence. You have chosen to take time for yourself, you are worth it. You believe that you can let go of what you can’t control and accept and trust your body.
Asanas: The physical practice will relax, tone and stretch your body. Each posture is specially designed for different benefits and you can feel the effects well after each class has finished. Increased flexibility and strength are the two most common benefits of regular yoga. One of my teachers, Angel Sinman (Future Sound of Yoga) has been practicing yoga for over 15 years and has seen first hand the amazing benefits to having a regular yoga practice.
Through time, it can make you feel stronger, more centred and grounded, not just physically but mentally too. She says that if you can apply the lessons you learn on the mat to when you are off the mat, that is where the magic starts to happen. When you are feeling strong and positive during practise, you cultivate that same strength and positivity in your everyday life – whether its by meeting a goal you always wanted to achieve, having the courage to listen to your intuition when making a decision or sharing your strength by helping others
Breath: In yoga, we use this life force to take us through each flow and posture. It is a beautiful thing for the body and breath to move in sync and knowing our breath keeps us grounded, frees our mind from stress and aids recovery.
Angel says that bringing awareness to the breath during yoga helps you tune in to every single moment of the practice. She assures us that regardless of the level of experience you have, staying focused on the breath can be one of the most challenging aspects of the practice for anyone. She finds there are days when the breath will flow easily in class and days where it just won’t, but it’s important to remember that either outcome is fine because by simply being aware of the state of the breath, the practice of mindfulness takes place.
Meditation: In ancient times, yoga was used as a way to prepare the body for meditation. Meditation and having a light mind is vital to overall wellbeing. Yoga is a moving meditation to create positive intentions and learn to let go of thoughts that don’t serve you.
After years of experience, Angel believes that meditation brings a sense of clarity and perspective to your world and helps to open your mind to new ways of thinking and to sharpen focus and concentration. One of her highlights is teaching Yoga Nidra Meditation at Body Mind Life (Bondi, Sydney). She explains that Yoga Nidra – otherwise known as ‘psychic sleep’ is an ancient practice where the body sleeps but the mind remains awake listening to the instructions. Just 20 minutes of the guided meditation can help students de-stress, unwind and feel rejuvenated.
Connection: True yoga is the connection between body and mind. By concentrating on the breath and asanas, there is no space in the mind for anxiety or stress; it’s a true connection of the self that brings clarity to all aspects of life. Angel explains that yoga means “union” and the practice ingrains a deep-seated sense of connection with your own self and also with others – with union there is no separation.
To not be connected is to be disconnected, and disconnection can be a source of our greatest pain – leading to loneliness or feelings of alienation. Humans seek connection and Angel believes that this is what yoga teaches us when we reflect on our relationships, friendships and how we treat each other.
To get started with yoga here is a free music download to support your practice from Future Sound of Yoga.
This post first appeared on Holistchic