In my experience, yoga offers each one some valuable life lessons. While training the body to be fitter, stronger and more flexible, the regular and serious practice of yoga helps us in other, unexpected ways that we did not think possible. In my quest as a yogi and my journey as a yoga trainer, I have come across unusual and startling benefits of yoga such as:
- Yoga teaches patience and perseverance – If you don’t get an aasan right or don’t currently have the flexibility to perform one or more yoga positions, you learn the value of being patient. Yoga teaches you to persevere and to continue on your chosen path so that you achieve whatever it is that you realistically desire. It helps you embrace your journey and to take the rough along with the smooth; firm in the belief that setbacks are only temporary. This too shall pass become words to live by.
- Yoga brings about humility & increases self worth – The forward bending aasans bring about a feeling of humility in the yogi over a period of time. It is said that the lower you can bend and the more flexible your spine, the more humble you are as a being. Likewise the backward bending aasans and those that need one to maintain an erect spine (such as the proud warrior pose) increase the feeling of self worth. These changes are gradually brought about over a long period of practice.
- Yoga teaches mindfulness – As I delved further into yoga and meditation I found that I was becoming more mindful of what I did: they way I held my body, my posture, what and how I ate, the way that I walked and stood. Yoga makes us more aware of our body’s physicality and helps to center our thoughts. One also becomes more aware of one’s breath; the way we breathe in and out. All of this leads to better concentration. I also experience this impact on students when I teach a yoga class.
- Yoga helps maintain hormonal balance – Most people who start yoga do so based on the belief that its practice will help them become fitter and perhaps lose some extra weight. However regular yoga is seen to maintain hormonal balance as well. Several poses such as the child pose (baalaasan) can help to control the stress hormone. The way that yoga promotes overall fitness also has a beneficial impact on other hormones produced within the body. Yoga also helps to strengthen and shore up the immune system as I have said in a previous post of mine.
- Yoga promotes good mental health – It isn’t just that good physical health helps achieve better mental health. It is also a fact that yoga itself is directly beneficial for reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, bipolar disease and even very serious problems like schizophrenia. Yoga also assists insomniacs sleep better; yet another way that mental health is promoted.
- Lessening of aches and pains – This is perhaps one of the more expected benefits of yoga: the fact that it helps to relieve lower back pain, soothe aching joints, reduce neck stress and so on. The increased flexibility and body balance that result from the regular practice of yoga are yet more benefits that I myself experience from time to time. I often plan a yoga class around these aims.
- It’s OK to be non competitive – This is another life lesson that my yoga class in Bandra We learn to be accepting of our body, our own unique abilities and also our limitations. We learn to work within these and to make optimal use of the talents that we are lucky enough to posses. It is like the various people in a yoga class: every student may have different abilities and strengths. It is not a competition to see who is the most flexible or who is able to perform the most aasans! If there are limits to one’s physical flexibility, that is perfectly OK!
- Benefits beyond the yoga mat – The values and attitudes that yoga propounds are valuable beyond the hour or so that you spend in a yoga class. These are values that you can carry forward into other areas of your life; apply to various situations and enhance outcomes.
Applying the principles of yoga to every day actions may well enhance your very quality of life!