6 First-Hand Benefits of Yoga (Beyond the Mat)
Yoga is an ancient practice that focuses on breathing, meditation and poses to boost physical and mental wellbeing.
Yoga originated in India about 5000 years ago and has become increasingly popular in today’s busy western society.
Yoga practices are now commonplace in leisure centres, health clubs, workplaces, schools, and hospitals.
Yoga provides a retreat from our chaotic and busy lives, helping people to relax and feel good.
Multiple studies have confirmed that yoga helps to reduce stress and anxiety and increase your flexibility and strength.
Below are 6 of my first-hand experiences of yoga’s healing power that stretch beyond the mat …
1. Yoga changed how I see myself
An authentic yoga practice demands introspection, reflection, and earnest consideration of the self.
When you practice yoga, you are focused on your inner experience rather than your outer experience (i.e., worrying about the body, how you look, what people think of you, etc) – this is why yoga studios don’t have mirrors.
Yoga is not about physical appearance. It’s not about the objectification of the body, but instead, its total ownership.
Since starting practising yoga 5 years ago, I am more satisfied with my body, I love it because it serves me well and it’s healthy. That’s all that matters.
2. Yoga improved my self-esteem
When you are less critical about yourself, your self-esteem naturally grows because there is no one to please but yourself.
In yoga, it’s what you do for yourself that matters.
If you practice regularly with an intention of self-examination and betterment you can access a different side of yourself.
You’ll experience feelings of gratitude, empathy, and forgiveness, as well as a sense that you’re part of something bigger.
This all will make you feel worthwhile.
3. Yoga improved my fitness in a better way
When thinking of improving your overall fitness, most of us think of lifting weights in the gym or running (yaaaawn – I can’t think of anything less boring)
If you don’t like lifting weights or doing mindless cardio, you may like yoga as it’s much more intelligent workout.
The growing popularity of yoga within young professionals has led to an increase in the number of Yoga Classes in London that can be undertaken during lunch breaks and intervals in the day or even in the workplace.
Yoga gives you all that a gym can, but in a peaceful, safe and more holistic way. It combines aspects of cardio, functional and strength training all in one.
And at the end of the exercise, you can lie down and relax to take in all those benefits.
What more could you ask for?
4. Yoga gave me laser-sharp focus
Since starting practising yoga regularly, I’m able to solve problems and organise my thoughts better – probably because I’m less tense and distracted by my thoughts.
Improved cognitive function happens when we can clear our minds and refresh. From a place of peace and calm, we can use our mental facilities more efficiently.
5. Yoga has made me less angry
Yoga strengthens the overall mind-body connection and helps you deal with unpleasant emotions like anger, fear or anxiety.
Yoga reduced my anger by increasing feelings of compassion and interconnection with the world and other beings.
It also increased my ability to step back from the drama of my own life and remain steady in the face of bad news or unsettling events.
I can now take that split second to choose a more thoughtful approach to dealing with an unpleasant emotion, reducing suffering for myself and others.
6. Yoga has made me a mindful eater
Practising yoga has increased mindfulness not just on a mat, but in other areas of my life, too.
I used to be an emotional eater, I binge ate when I felt sad or stressed.
Thanks to yoga, I am now more mindful when I eat.
Being mindful eater doesn’t mean that I never eat chocolate or that I only eat lettuce.
I’m just aware of the physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. I savour each bite or sip, note how food smells, tastes and feels in my mouth.
As a result, I am now more sensitive to hunger versus thirst cues and feelings of fullness, so I don’t overeat or put anything unnecessary into my body.
But of course, chocolate will always be necessary from time to time 🙂
Do you practise yoga? How has it changed your life?