Image by lululemon athletica
The following is a guest post by Sarah Stevenson.
Life a chaotic mess? What if I told you that I know something you can do to cut through that chaos? A practice that not only can de-stress a cluttered mind, but strengthen and relax a fatigued body and bring balance to a worried soul? Interested?
Welcome to the wonderful world of yoga.
If done regularly, the balance it creates can help you accomplish incredible physical and mental tasks. Here are specific ways that a consistent yoga practice can help you:
Waking Up the Body
The practice of yoga consists of breathing techniques and asanas (poses). Typically yoga poses are held in place for 5 to 10 breaths. Holding these poses places resistance on your muscles with your own body weight, creating little tears in the muscles, as most exercise does.
Once the tears are present, your healing centers are woken up, rushing healer cells to the little tears to heal them. The healer cells then build new fibers, thus increasing the strength of your muscles.
The weight-bearing asanas also promote an increase in bone density. You spend an equal amount of time on each side of the body, which promotes a balanced physique.
The consistent flow of asanas also reminds us that the body has a voice. It screams when it is being pushed too far and whispers to us sweetly when we get a yummy stretch in. You are taught in yoga to stay within the whisper of the body.
Quieting and Controlling the Mind
Yoga does an amazing job at healing the mind by helping you control it. We first do this with the practice of Pranayama (breathing techniques to quiet the mind). The Ujjayi breath is used in yoga throughout the entire class.
It is characterized by deep inhale through the nose in which the belly expands outward and deep exhales through the nose in which the belly sinks inward. An “ocean sound” is created by narrowing the throat passage thus the breath brushes against the back of the throat.
The inhalations and exhalations are equal in duration, and are controlled in a manner. Ujjayi is a balancing and calming breath, which increases oxygenation and builds internal body heat.
The mind can only focus on one thing at a time, so if you take your thoughts to the sound of your breath, the mind does not have the ability to focus on anything else. When you add the flow of asanas to match the breath, you then wake up the body and control the mind.
If you do it right, it’ll happen without your awareness and you’ll calm before you even notice the shift.
Opening Up To Your Soul
Once you have control of the mind and can hear the voice of the body, you come at life from a more soulful place. When you have a consistent practice you will notice that you’re making different choices when it comes to things as simple as the food you eat to choices as complex as whom you want to spend your time with.
When you are a more balanced, peaceful human being, you share that peace and balance with everything you come into contact with — and you find the whole world responds differently to you in kind.
We find ourselves being more loving and passionate than we ever thought we would be. We make more conscious choices that serve us and mankind as a whole.
The key, my friends, is to have a consistent weekly practice so that you are working toward balance several times a week. Ideally, that means an hour a day, three times a week. Once you start to see the benefits of this you will be more than happy to continue your practice.
Know that when you put effort toward balancing your life today you will continue to reap the benefits the rest of your lives.