what yoga really does to your mind and body

how can a series of poses, done over and over again, possibly change your life?

Photo by Heather Sin (but yes, this is me)
“When you are too busy for yoga, that is when you need it the most.”

When life got busy, yoga used to be the first thing I cut out. There were so many excuses I could give:

It’s too far.

It’s too cold.

I don’t have the time.

I didn’t bring my mat.

I want to do some cardio.

I need to do XYZ other workout for XYZ other reason.

It’s so easy to push it aside. Because as Sigmund Freud said:

“There is resistance at every step.”

It’s easy to tell yourself you need yoga when you forget what it’s like without yoga as a constant presence in your life.

For myself and many others, yoga starts as a physical practice. We start because it makes us feel physically good. We’re told it’ll strengthen our core. We’re told it will help us stretch, will loosen our muscles, will make us more flexible.

For myself and many others, we also turn to yoga as a way to heal.

“There is just enough suffering to get you through the door.” — Michael Stone

“I started yoga when my family member died.”

“I started yoga as a way to heal from a breakup.”

“I started yoga as way of remembering my loved one.”

“I started yoga to heal from an injury.”

“I started yoga as a way of teaching myself to love myself again.”

Yoga, if you translate it, is derived from the verb yuj, which means “to unite.” It can be seen as a union of mind and body, a union of movement and breath… a union of peace and suffering.

We can speak of “the path to enlightenment,” but I can tell you I was (am) very skeptical of that. What is enlightenment? Are you telling me that through a series of poses practiced over and over again, that I can find my true purpose in life?

Yeah, right.

But the truth is, there is spirituality behind yoga, whether you believe it or not. Continued practice does not only change your body, it also changes your mind.

Let’s talk about the physical first.

During our teacher training, we delved into anatomy. We learned about muscles, bones, nerves. About why we did certain poses. What those poses did for us.

We learned assists to help deepen poses or correct posture. We learned that yoga is about practicing safe alignment.

I used yoga as a way of healing my body after adrenal fatigue and too many sessions of extended cardio and high-impact exercise.

I found that my body felt looser, more open. That I became injured less and less.

I found my core, arms, and legs stronger they were ever were before.

I found that a simple breath can cleanse and calm your entire body, and that many breaths can either cool or heat you up from within.

Now let’s talk about the mental.

I won’t say yoga gave me a “personality change,” but I can confidently say that yoga has made me a better person. It has taught me to be kinder and more respectful to others — and to myself.

Holding long poses has taught me patience. It’s taught me mental discipline.

Trying new poses has taught me humility. It’s taught me that the more we learn, the more we realize we do not know.

Attempting inversions away from a wall has taught me trust. It’s taught me that I can fall, and that’s OK.

Moving breath to movement has taught me to stay present. It’s taught me that my breath has the power to carry me from one pose to the next, to ease pain, to serve as an anchor for concentration.

Setting an intention at the beginning of class has taught me to be more purposeful. Practice without purpose is meaningless; practice with purpose allows for growth.

Understanding my body’s limits in poses and in class has taught me to be kind to my body. It’s taught me to accept where I am, and that where I am is perfect, that it’s where I need to be right now.

Realizing that there is no “winning” in yoga has taught me that there is no “winning” in life. It’s taught me that not everything is a competition, that I don’t need to measure my success by other peoples’ validation.

Knowing that everyone’s practice is perfect has taught me to let go of my ego. It’s taught me to respect others for where they are, and to see from a place of non-judgment.

I’ve met so many beautiful souls through the yoga community and uncovered so much about myself in the process.

“Yoga is the practice of finding within ourselves freedom.” — Michael Stone

I hope you all find in yourselves a little more freedom today and every day. Namaste.