The Mind and Body Benefits of Yoga

For years I have heard about the benefits of yoga and have intended to give it a try. But I never seemed to get around to it. About a year ago that changed. I attended a yoga class and was astounded at how great I felt – both during the class and afterward. The results were immediate and powerful. Now I am committed to doing yoga 1-3 times per week. How did I move from contemplating to taking action?

At the time, I was reading a terrific book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. It gave me a better understanding of how habits shape our lives and how we can shape our habits. Specifically, it helped me look at the habit loop of “cues”, “routines”, and “rewards.” Soon I was making a number of changes to enhance my quality of life. I initiated new routines to produce different rewards. Starting yoga was one of them.

My lifelong habit of running daily had produced many good mind and body results. But I suspected yoga would be a great counter-balance to my somewhat stale workout routine. Armed with some new ways of thinking from Duhigg, I was ready to move forward on my goal of trying yoga.

Soon I went to a yoga class. I found it both calming and energizing. It was a fine physical workout, but it also helped me feel centered and attuned to my breathing. The focus on balance and core strength was terrific. Over the course of a few sessions, I felt longer, leaner, and less tense. Over time, I seemed more connected with my body and regulated in my emotions.

In yoga class we do a combination of stretching, relaxation, strength exercises (especially abdominals), and balance work through holding poses. Gentle music plays in the background while the instructor guides us to breath slowly, concentrate intently, progress at our own pace, and challenge ourselves with the poses.

At the end of the class during the final meditation, I was surprised by the emotional release. It was cathartic. Despite the concern of some conservative Christians, there was no Buddhist spiritual agenda. I lifted up my own simple prayers befitting my personal religious beliefs. I must have expelled whatever negative energy my body had been holding. I felt light and limber – simultaneously free and connected.

I was brimming with physical strength, mental clarity, and spiritual vibrancy. It was so gratifying and restorative that I have stuck with it. Now yoga is one of my favorite personal wellness practices. I love what it does for me.

The benefits of Yoga have been well substantiated for a wide range of health issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, chronic pain, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and many others. Consider the following articles:

1)   http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/01/12/scientific-basis-for-yoga-benefits/10693.html

2)   http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/yoga/CM00004

3)  Jan 1, 2013 – Evidence Based Medical Benefits of Yoga,. Indian Journal of Science, 2013, 2(3), 1-4,                                        www.discovery.org.in http://www.discovery.org.in/ijs.htm 

I encourage you to try yoga. Take a class at your local gym or look up “Yoga Classes” on YouTube and practice it at home. If you are like me, your mind, body, and spirit will soar. That’s what I call wellness.