One should become a master of one’s mind rather than let one’s mind master him. – Nichiren Daishonin
Recently, I have taken on the challenge of yoga as my new source of exercise. In the past, I have ran and lifted weights as a work out, but decided to try something a little new.
Before I get into the benefits of yoga, I want to talk a little about what yoga actually is. There are many misconceptions of yoga, and what it entails.
Yoga is a five thousand year old Indian body of knowledge. It is about harmonizing the body with the mind and breath through various breathing exercises, yoga poses (asanas), and meditation (The Art of Living).
For those of us who hold some type of religious faith, meditation can be frightening. It is seen as a religious practice in which worships another god, however, it actually has more to do with the relaxation of the mind.
The Art of Living states, “When the mind becomes free from agitation, is calm and serene and at peace, meditation happens; a calm mind, good concentration, clarity of perception, improvement in communication, blossoming of skills and talents, an unshakable inner strength, healing, and the ability to connect to an inner source of energy, relaxation and rejuvenation.”
Essentially, yoga consists of meditation, which allows the mind to become clearer and relaxed. Though, it is only a part of yoga. It also includes breathing exercises to become in touch with one’s own physical body intuitively, and poses, which provides exercise and flexibility for the body.
It is vital that to point out that during this process I am in no way worshiping any other god, but I am becoming one with myself and the image of God. I am breathing deeply to gain awareness to not only my physical body, but my spirit. I am quietening the mind through focusing on the present moment, letting go of other thoughts and worries, which brings a soft and calm to my mind. And I am engaging in yoga poses to build strength and muscle to my body. What is the big picture? The mind, body and spirit are at work during yoga.
At the moment, I have completed a week of yoga out of 31 days, and I am already reaping the benefits. I have more energy, sleep better, feel stronger; I have toned muscles and have noticed fat loss. This is only from 7 days, with a little recreational walking in between!
What are the physical benefits?
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Improved respiration, energy and vitality
- Maintaining a balanced metabolism
- Weight reduction
- Cardio and circulatory health
- Improved athletic performance
- Protection from injury
What are the mental benefits?
- Managed stress
- Improved mental well-being
- Mental clarity and calmness
- Increases body awareness
- Relieves chronic stress patterns
- Relaxes the mind
- Centers attention
- Sharpens concentration
Yoga is not for everyone, and that is okay! However, it comes with great benefits which influence a holistic view – the mind, body and spirit. Personally, I believe in developing holistically, which is why I highly encourage at least giving yoga a try if it does not go against your convictions.
Here are some pictures of my body after 7 sessions of yoga:
My stomach has always been an insecurity area on my body, but I am becoming more comfortable as it becomes toned.
I took a picture of me sitting down to portray how I feel in my body. I have always felt insecure of my stomach, especially when sitting down. After eating well and working out, I can finally sit down comfortably without feeling nervous and fearful of not being “fit” enough.
The point of these pictures is not to brag nor to sell the idea of yoga to you. However, it is to reveal what the physical benefits of yoga are, as well as the emotional and mental esteem that can also be gained from it.
It is important to remember that no “body” will ever be perfect, but it is about being relaxed within mind, body and spirit to feel confident in the image one has been given. So, if yoga seems like something you would be interested in, give it a try, and reap the benefits with me!
References: http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/general-health/Pages/yoga.aspx https://www.artofliving.org/us-en/yoga https://www.artofliving.org/us-en/meditation