It is well accepted that yoga is a systematic way to reduce stress. Those not interested in spiritual aspects of yoga need to know that the benefits from reduction of chronic stress are considerable and this should be enough to get them going into yoga. No further discussion necessary. But this article is about spirituality and seeks to answer the question why is yoga spiritual? Why is it that by doing yoga stretches that we tend to become more spiritual?
Why are we stressed?
To understand connection between yoga and spirituality we need to first answer the question: why are we stressed? The stress system answers to life-threatening situations. When a tiger is chasing the deer, the fight-or-flee situation kicks in. This is a perfectly tailor made situation to be stressed if you are the deer! While crossing a road if you are about to be run over by an approaching car, it is not the time to ponder on existential questions or have loving feelings towards the driver of the approaching vehicle. It is time for the stress response to kick in. It is time to flee and jump out of trouble! But in modern times life-threatening situations are rare. So this begs the question: Why are we stressed?
Ego and Stress
The answer to the question ‘Why are we stressed?’ comes when we realize that though physically we may not be under life-threatening situations, we still constantly feel under attack. Thus when we hear criticism we feel under attack. When we worry about losing our job we feel threatened. We also feel stress in traffic if we feel unproductive and have a lot to get done. Pressure of work can also be stressful if we feel that this may get us into trouble with our boss.
In most people stress happens because we feel under attack or challenged. This is the ego feeling threatened or unsecure. Modern day stress is not usually due to physical threat but is as the result of the ego.
Can reduction of stress impact ego?
The larger our ego the more stress we generate. This is because we have more opportunities to feel hurt or feel under attack. Ego creates stress. But what happens when we reduce stress? What is the impact of stress reduction on ego?
When stress is reduced, our mind is able to function more clearly. We are able to better control our feelings and we become less reactive. We are able to express ourselves from our deeper selves than being just defensive. When stress reduces in our lives, we can find it easier to be more thankful, more loving, and more kind. Instead of expressing ourselves from our egos we are able to do so from a deeper level. When stress goes down our ego matters less.
What is connection of ego and spirituality?
We are all spiritual beings. But sadly we spend most of our lives less with our spirit but more as slaves of our egos. When we make our egos goals as our own, spirituality takes a back seat. Instead stress enters our life and our thinking becomes more and more clouded. We become reactive and defensive, spending most of our energy defending the ego and its whims. Ego causes stress and stress strengthens ego. Our lives are hijacked by the ego because we are unable to break out of this cycle.
Yoga and spirituality
The yoga of postures takes us out of this cycle. By reducing stress it clears the fog in our mind. This opens our mind to deeper impulses. As our practice of yoga deepens and stress levels continue to plummet we are able to sideline the concerns of the ego and take back control of our lives. We become spiritual beings. Our lives begin to be governed by principles of unity and love, not division and hostility.
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