We are nearing the end of another year, so I took the time to ask a few friends and family the greatest lessons that they have learnt over the years. All their answers led to one common theme: self-investment.
Self-investment requires evaluating yourself, and saying “Woops, I have to work on that”. It may range from the big things like improving your physical well-being by altering your diet, or keeping in touch with your spirituality by building some sort of habit or ritual, to the smallest (but usually the hardest) steps like improving your mental state by practicing self-awareness. Self-investment is a very dynamic concept. Luckily, research and experts have come up with simple ways to get started on it and one of it is through Yoga.
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”– Unknown
In the early 2000s, Yoga seemed very far-fetched. It was intimidating; most Yoga enthusiasts portrayed by the media were toned and flexible. There was an unspoken idea that Yoga was already for the fit. For those of us who fell in the less fit category, well, we would have to undergo some type of cardio training before we would even consider participating in Yoga.
However, as the years go by, body shaming was replaced with body positivity and inner peace has become the new cool. People joined the hype of Yoga with one goal in mind: to invest in oneself. There will be money shed, time allotted, and energy expended, however ultimately, it is a lifelong investment that will improve a lot of aspects in one’s life. Yes, not just the physical aspect!
Here are some of the overlooked but fundamental benefits of Yoga:
Your mom was right when she said that you'll look better and feel great if you stop slouching and stand up straight. Yoga can help you do just that — in a way that honors your spine's natural curves.
Our posture is an important dimension of health, which doesn't get the attention it deserves. Your posture influences the alignment of the spine and thereby the overall health of your body. The spine is the central channel of the nervous system, and when your spine is healthy, the pathways of the nervous system are strong and clear, and vital energy flows unimpeded, creating maximum vitality and well-being.
Embracing yoga to improve your posture will not just help you prevent back pain and joint stiffness, it will also increase the health of your back by building strength, increasing flexibility, and improving alignment, plus the health of your entire body will benefit.
Research is making it clear that posture is an important dimension in staying healthy throughout life. Practicing yoga with a strong focus on correct alignment will ensure vital energy flows more freely down your spine, allowing you to experience more energy, vitality and greater well-being.
Wakefulness And Focus
Yes, you read that right ー wakefulness without the aid of your regular dose of caffeine. Since it helps in blood circulation, Yoga can jumpstart the day when done in the morning especially with an empty stomach. It activates the muscles without putting too much strain or workload therefore just enough to stimulate it and not overwork it. Unlike a regular exercise regimen, there is not much importance in recovery so it contributes more on the person’s wakefulness and alertness rather than muscle fatiguability. As a result, there will be less sluggishness throughout the day and it will sharpen your concentration and prolong attention span.
Let us not forget to state the obvious. Yoga is a form of exercise and whether this is your goal or not, it will improve your overall fitness. With proper diet, it will even make you leaner and more equipped to engage in different physical demands at home or in the workplace. Complex poses that are held for a minute or two increases the body’s endurance. Balance and flexibility will follow too because it requires you to contract and strengthen the core muscles which is a prerequisite skill. But like any other goal, consistency is still the key to gain success and the desired result.
If you ask a Yogi, the best part of Yoga is not even what it does to the body but rather, what it does to the mind. Yoga increases a person’s mindfulness. The historical background of Yoga states that the original context of it revolves around mental clarity. It is a form of meditation which allows an individual to pause and focus on the body’s internal physiology such as the rhythmic breathing of the lungs and the delicate beating of the pulse.
This shifts the person’s focus from all external distractions to what is happening within their body. This becomes a framework to develop one of the core principles of Yoga ー focusing on what you can control, and letting go of what you cannot.
By embodying this, there is an opportunity for introspection. Being aware of one’s strengths, weaknesses, emotions, and thought process is the first step towards self-improvement. If you are aware of what to improve, then you can plan and take concrete steps on how to get started.
Since we are talking about mental benefits, Yoga is one of the best forms of sublimation. Sublimation is a defense mechanism that allows an individual to release their frustrations and reduce their anxiety in a healthier and socially acceptable manner. Yoga focuse on what needs to be developed such as self-control and mindfulness over triggering situations.
Yoga is a slow and steady process; it requires precision in form. Unlike jogging where you are just expected to propel forward and sweat regardless of how you move your legs, Yoga isolates every movement of the body. This is a metaphor to how you are encouraged to isolate and dissect everyday life situations- choosing not to react, but to respond. It is taking a step back and not letting your emotions overpower your intelligence.
This is a broad concept since there are a lot of connections a single human can make in a single lifespan. It can be a connection with another human, with an animal, with the environment, or with a higher being. Yoga knows no boundaries and is not limited to a single religion or belief.
No matter what you believe in or who you pray to, Yoga simply enhances your personal connections. It gives you the time and space to recollect and go back to your core which is essential in the very fast-paced world we live in today. If it is well-incorporated in your daily routine, it can sustain and foster life-long connections.
As a result, it prevents isolation and prevents feelings of depression which more and more people are getting prone to due to the lack of attention to their relationships, especially the one that they have with themselves. We might think that as long as we are getting up every day, earning a living and showing up to our obligations, it already equates to living a fruitful life. When in reality, our personal connections are what nurture us and what makes us human in the most vulnerable and honest way. For what it is worth, it is what separates us from robots.
The last but not the least, and definitely a personal favourite is how it targets a person’s self-worth and self-appreciation. Self-worth [and our lack of it] motivates a lot of our everyday decisions. Having a strong foundation of self-appreciation, self-worth and self-esteem does not come from how the outside world sees us, it does not require validation from others and it goes beyond the outward appearance.
When we practice yoga not to be perfect but to "just be and accept", a daily yoga practice then becomes about appreciating our bodies rather than being critical. Over time a good foundation in self-appreciation organically builds self-worth which then opens more opportunity to connect with different individuals and to try new things. In simpler words, it promotes self-growth [which also promotes self-worth].
These specific and underrated benefits of Yoga are believed to be true to its nature. You do not have to be a professional to gain these benefits. You just have to get started on the journey and like any other habit, consistency will allow you to gain all the benefits it has to offer.
A 10 minute daily practice of yoga is your chance to start your journey to self-discovery and self-mastery. Over time you will be gifted with exceptional life-skills that will help you find complete mind-body-spirit happiness and it is a journey that transcends beyond the world of Yoga.