Creating good health means nurturing yourself as a whole being, encompassing your body, mind and soul. Nourishing these parts of you involves eating the right foods, engaging in the correct amount of physical activity, and maintaining a positive mindset and attitude. One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to look after yourself holistically is by practising yoga.
Ancient wisdom for our modern lives
Yoga is the earliest recorded system of exercise, dating back over 5000 years. It was practised by Indian sages and has become one of the leading forms of exercise for physical fitness, flexibility, weight loss and relaxation. Yoga is not just about the physical postures; it is a complete system for right living. Yoga teaches us how to live a moral and ethically sound life, as well as how to harness the immense power of the mind, and progress along our spiritual path to enlightenment (freedom from suffering).
Physical and psychological benefits
Yoga helps our self-development, boosts confidence, and promotes self-discipline and responsibility. It is regarded as so beneficial for the human body because it works on every single part of the body, including all the different muscle groups, the internal organs, and bodily systems such as the nervous system, the digestive system, and the endocrine system.
Yoga boosts the immune system and improves blood circulation. It enables the practitioner to control stress and anxiety better. It also helps with weight loss and detoxification. Yoga provides relief from many disorders such as joint and back pain, chronic fatigue, depression and arthritis.
A moving meditation
Along with the physical postures or asanas, the other primary focus of yoga is meditation. Meditation allows the mind to quiet, and the true self to be revealed. Regular practitioners of yoga and meditation find that they are better able to cope with stressful situations, enjoy increased energy levels, better quality sleep, have more focus and clarity of mind, and notice an increase in confidence and self-acceptance. Although I do recommend meditation as a stand alone practice, yoga is a moving meditation, utilising the breath to facilitate flow between the postures and enable deep relaxation and peace.
Yoga also nourishes the soul or spirit. It allows us to connect with Source (or Universal Force, or God, or whatever your choice of name for the energy of the universe happens to be), and in doing so, we can advance our spiritual journey and become closer to Source.
With a regular yoga practice, we are not just able to form a deeper connection to Source, but also able to create a deeper connection with our higher self, our truth, the light within us. In doing so, we can experience heightened intuition and inner knowing, a better understanding of ourselves, others and the world we live in, and a profound sense of happiness and peace.
Creating a regular yoga practice is easy and has so many benefits. You can try out a local class, buy a DVD, sign up to an online studio, or even watch videos for free on YouTube. Even with just 5-10 minutes of regular practice, you will begin to see results. Building a regular, consistent practice of shorter sessions is so much more beneficial than doing the odd 90-minute class now and then. Mornings are a good time to practice; do a few rounds of sun salutations to boost energy and gear you up for the day.
It is also nice to practice a more gentle flow of postures in the evening before bed to get the body and mind ready for sleep. Whatever your personal choice of method, I sincerely hope you can build yourself a regular, consistent practice, so you get to reap the many benefits this amazing ancient spiritual art has to offer.
Have you experienced any of the benefits discussed here through your own practice? What does your practice consist of? Feel free to share thoughts or questions below.