Why yoga helps every aspect of our mental and physical health
In celebration of World Yoga Day, we want to express how crucial yoga is and why, especially now, you should give it a try – whether you’ve fallen out of the practice or have never stepped on a mat.
Aside from the vigorous stretches and sweaty windows that you may associate with yoga, the practice actually has rich history in India, and goes far beyond downward dogs and handstands. The root of yoga means, “union.” We can translate this as union of the body, breath, mind and soul, but also union with one another. In these rapidly changing times in our country with much division and adversity, we need something to ground and steady us now more than ever, and we definitely need something to help bring us together as a community.
Below are just a few of the many reasons why yoga should be a part of your regular routine:
Yoga helps you accept what is
One of the most ancient and sacred yoga texts, The Yoga Sutra, lists several beliefs that make yoga what it is. The first sutra is simply: “Now the practice of yoga begins.”
Yoga is here to help us dive into whatever we’re feeling, whatever is going on in our lives, with open minds and hearts, and a grounded steadiness about us. It reveals that, the more we push things away in our lives, the more they fester. Rather, yoga teaches us coping mechanisms and appreciation for what life throws at us – the good, the bad and everything in between.
And, so the practice of yoga begins.
Yoga calms the body and mind
Stress relief is one of the most popular benefits that bring people to yoga. Think about it this way: if you start your day with a blaring alarm clock, 20 missed emails and three kids to feed – while trying to race out the door by 7:30 to sit in traffic – your mind is already overloaded before the day has even begun.
If you start your day with a simple yoga practice, or sitting in silence for a few minutes, those other priorities fall aside – and can always be dealt with later. The noise of life may never turn off, but we can change how we react to certain situations. With a grounding, calming practice, we are better able to face the day. If we do yoga after a long day, we can more easily wind down and let go of our days before we go to bed.
Whether you have a longstanding injury or a broken heart, yoga helps repair whatever ails you. Alignment-based yoga teaches us how to properly align our bodies to heal old injuries and prevent new ones from occurring. It’s like a body wringing out, so you can soften muscles and strengthen the body.
With vigorous movement comes silent stillness: we learn the basics of breath and meditation, which helps us listen to our inner voice: our pain, our sorrow, but also our own guidance and love. This helps us tap into our innate wisdom that we normally search for high and low – when really; it’s always within us.
Yoga keeps us healthy
There are hundreds of preventive health benefits of yoga – too many to name them all here. A few of them include: protecting your spine, improving your bone health, draining your lymph system and boosting immunity, maintaining your nervous system, helping you sleep, and perhaps significantly helping with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. In addition, such as with other forms of exercise, yoga makes us feel healthier, which in turn allows us to make healthier eating choices. When we learn how to listen to our bodies, through yoga, we know exactly what to feed ourselves.
With so many people at odds and so much changing in our country, it’s crucial now more than ever to develop a self-care practice. Yoga is the ultimate form of self-care: you get a workout, stretching, meditation and calming of the breath and heart. You learn how to cope with anything that comes your way, and you appreciate what you already have in your life.
This barely scratches the surface of what yoga can do for you. To learn more, roll out your mat – or purchase one such as the Zen Active Yoga Mat – attend a local class, and see for yourself!