18 Ways Yoga Changed My Life

The term “yoga” is a Sanskrit word that means “union” or “to join”. This refers to the union of body, mind, and spirit (pretty holistic, right?). Yoga is a 5,000 year old system that analyzes everything from conduct and philosophy to breath and meditation. Though most Westerners turn to yoga for relaxation and its other health benefits, the ultimate aim of yoga is something much bigger. Through the process of purifying our thoughts and actions, yoga gives us a clear path to attain bliss, peace, and self-realization. This practice is very near and dear to me because it’s radically transformed my life from the inside out.

18 Ways Yoga Changed My Life
Among other things, yoga has helped me to decrease stress and anxiety, increase my range of motion, boost my immune system, improve my posture, heal injuries, and learn how to really concentrate. After five years of practicing yoga, you might imagine that I have developed more strength, flexibility, and balance as a result. And I have, but in more holistic ways than you may at first consider. Here are eighteen ways that yoga has changed my life:

  • Yoga has not just helped me gain physical flexibility, but also mental and emotional flexibility. Ever heard of the mind-body connection?
  • Yoga has helped me achieve balance while on the mat (i.e. holding Half Moon), but it’s also helped me achieve balance while off the mat (i.e. trying to juggle work, love, family, friends, self-care, etc.).
  • Yoga taught me about posture and alignment. Not only do I have the physical capacity to stand straighter, but I also have the mental and emotional capacity to stand straighter because of the inner workings of my practice.
  • Yoga has given me strength. It’s true, Boat Pose can be a good core workout. Physical strength comes as a part of a regular yoga practice, as does mental strength, emotional strength, energetic strength, and spiritual strength.
  • Yoga taught me about perseverance. As B.K.S. Iyengar (founder of Iyengar yoga) said, “The pose begins when we want to come out of it.” By compassionately pushing my limits, I constantly expand into new territories and possibilities. Note: this mentality has bled into many other areas of my life.
  • Yoga has been a constant reminder that I can’t always get/do/have everything after my first attempt (or, sometimes after my 1,000th attempt, for that matter). As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (founder of Ashtanga yoga) said, “Practice and all is coming.” #patience
  • Yoga helped me find self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love. Every time I get on the mat, I get to decide how I treat myself (even when I “fail” or “come up short”). Again, I’ve come to realize that how I act on the mat is how I act off the mat.
  • Yoga introduced me to levels of awareness that I never knew were possible. Standing in something as simple as Mountain Pose or sitting in a posture as straightforward as Staff Pose can actively engage every single muscle in my body. This level of awareness grows beyond the physical to include new realms of mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual awareness.
  • Yoga has made me a more enjoyable person. I was introduced to this practice during a time in my life when everything was in shambles. To say I was a total hot mess would be an understatement. Yoga and meditation were the two biggest tools that helped me dig my way out.
  • Yoga taught me how to open my heart. Through connecting with my breath while holding a pose that opens and broadens my chest (i.e. Camel), my pectoralis major muscle relax and stretch. My heart follows.
  • Yoga introduced me to my body’s innate wisdom and intelligence. My body is a masterpiece that was made in the image of divinity. I’ve learned to honor and treat it accordingly.
  • Yoga taught me to live in the present. This is the antidote to anxiety (which is living in the past) and depression (which is living in the future).
  • Yoga taught me how to breathe. I learned to utilize my nose, diaphragm, and entire lung capacity. I also learned to return to my breath over and over and over again as needed. Regardless of external circumstances, my breath is my anchor to peace.
  • Yoga equipped me with tools for working with my prana (aka life force).
  • Yoga told me it is okay to slow down. It’s never a waste of time to relax. As Stephen C. Paul said, “Everything you do can be done better from a place of relaxation.”
  • Yoga taught me the importance of prevention. Rather than waiting for joint or low back pain to become a chronic issue, I can take action each and every day to prevent these things from becoming issues in my body and in my life.
  • Yoga helped me learn to calm my mind. When I calm my body and calm my breath, I simultaneously calm my mind as well. It’s magic.
  • Yoga introduced me to an amazing group of friends that have become family.
B.K.S. Iyengar accurately said, “Words fail to convey the total value of yoga. It has to be experienced.” As you might notice from my list, yoga isn’t about contorting my body. It’s not about showing off. As T.K.V. Desikachar said, “The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live out life and our relationships.” Word.

 

Namaste,
Article: Zachary H. Avery
Photo: Go Interactive Wellness

 

It's never a waste of time to relax

Quotes
  • “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.” ~ Judith Hanson Lasater
  • “Calming the mind is yoga. Not just standing on your head.” ~ Swami Satchidananda
  • “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” ~ The Bhagavad Gita
Resources

 

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