I began my yoga practice around eight years ago and when I realized the potential for regular practice to reduce stress in my life I made time to practice regularly. I am still working towards a daily practice and intend to remain diligent with that goal.
Why should we practice Yoga? Different people come to their matt for different reasons. Some for the physical exercise, some for the meditative side of it and others for the spiritual aspect the Yoga world presents. These are all valid reasons, but for me personally the mental benefits far outweigh the physical rewards.
The mental and spiritual benefits are strongly linked but I am mindful of the fact that the spiritual side of Yoga can push some people away. My goal is to bring Yoga and its benefits to as many people as possible so I encourage everybody to take the aspects that resonate with them as individuals. The mental, physical and spiritual benefits will follow.
I meditate every morning for twenty minutes and every evening for five minutes to wrap up the day. Yoga, like meditation, according to Sat Bir Khalso (assistant Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School) can effect the brain structure at the cellular and molecular level due to brain plasticity. This has been proven by neural imaging.
Khalsa explains that, through Yoga, the immune system can be improved and negative effects like inflammation can be reduced.
In my first regular Yoga class at YMCA last week, I asked the students to notice how they felt both before and after the practice. I encouraged them (as I have been encouraged many times by my own teachers) to try to take this feeling with them throughout the day. Even if you don’t make a conscious effort, the benefits of the practice will follow you regardless.
According to Michael De Manincor (Psychologist and Director of the Yoga Institute) an experiment showed, that over a 6 week period, just twelve minutes of yoga showed a 33% percent reduction in stress between a control group and a group who were asked to practice Yoga. They showed an increase in the frequency of positive experience and a decrease in the frequency of negative experiences.
This reinforces my belief in the benefits of a daily practice. Regular movement, breathing, mindfulness and relaxation have been proven to reduce depression and anxiety.
Meditation or Dhyana, is one of the eight limbs of Yoga. It is through meditation that we create space in our mind and through asana or postures that we create space in the body. According to Doctor Fharzana Siraj (Doctor of alternative medicine) this space allows heat, electrical energy, magnetic energy and hormones to flow through our body.
The breath, Pranayama, another of the eight limbs of Yoga, according to Doctor Mithu Storoni (Neuro ophthalmologist) is another powerful tool we can use to bring stress under control by taking fewer breaths and breathing deeper into the lungs and deep into the belly. Studies have shown that it is possible to reduce blood pressure trough breathing alone. It is an extremely powerful tool both on and off the mat. It is free and is available for us all to use.
Many great breath advocates and Yoga minds including Wim Hof and Max Strom speak about the benefits of breathing. In my own teaching and practice, the breath is one of my core values. I believe we should use the breath both as a guide through our practice and to bring ourselves into a state of mind where we are ready to practice.
Bruce Lipton (Cell Biologist) tells us that 90% of illnesses are caused through stress. This leads us to believe that 90% of illnesses are avoidable (or at least we can reduce the risk), through the practice of mindful breathing and Yoga. Stress is caused by the mind overworking. Yoga, breath and meditation focus the mind.
Yoga offers us great healing capacity. We can use it to heal our bodies and minds but we can also take it further from here to move through our mental blockages and chip away at the outer fluff to find our true selves. Awakening is another of my Core values when it comes to teaching and practice. It is a path to our true selves and Yoga and meditation point the way for us.
I hope that the above can convince some of you have not tried Yoga to give it a go.
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