Ten Amazing Benefits Of Yoga

Yoga Benefits

Yoga is supposed to have great benefits. But what exactly are they? This article provides a quick summary:

1. Great hamstring stretch
I spend more than 90% of my waking hours seated in various chairs. Apparently this is the norm for increasing number of people. However the downside of this luxury is that the seated posture causes our hamstrings to tighten. Eventually this can cause pelvic misalignment that can then cascade to lower back and knee issues. This can also make us prone to injuries and lead to development of a poor posture. One great way to counter this is to practice Yoga regularly. Yoga has great postures that allow us to stretch our hamstring muscles.

2. Back strengthener
Most of us have notoriously weak backs. This is the result of doing much less physical labor than our forefathers. This makes us prone to back injuries and also leads to chronic back pain. A healthy back and spine are key to a productive life and millions are deprived of this. Yoga is one of the best known ways to strengthen your back and spine and it is known to help people with chronic back pain.

3. Improved posture
Posture is a great predictor for both longevity and success. Working most of the day in front of monitors gets us all hunched up and our posture suffers. If we are not careful about how we sit, this too causes a slow but sure degeneration in our posture. Unfortunately posture correction is notoriously difficult to achieve by conventional means. One great way to do it is by practicing yoga regularly. It may take time but yoga counteracts the slow downward spiral of our posture and eventually it can cause noticeable improvements in it.

4. Antidepressant and mood improver
More than 14 million people suffer from depression in the US. Millions more suffer from mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and problems relating to substance abuse. Yoga is no silver bullet, but those who practice yoga regularly report that it is very effective in alleviating symptoms relating to mood disorders and depression. You can find some such stories recorded in the stories section of MyLifeYoga.com.

5. Emotions unblocked
One aspect of the healing process initiated by yoga relates to emotions. As we de-stress, “a fog” lifts and we are able to disentangle thoughts and emotions. Some yoga postures, such as hip openers can result in a “release” of emotions so powerful that some yoga practitioners burst into tears. In most cases however the emotions locked in tight muscles are slowly released and yoga practitioners report improved mood and better emotional health as a result.

6. Improved fitness
It is no secret that maintaining an active life style is the key to health and wellness. But why is it that we find it difficult to stick to a regimen of regular exercise? Most gyms report that only a tiny fraction of enrollees are regulars. But for yoga the experience is usually different. You begin to feel the benefits immediately as you progress in your practice. This allows you to continue with yoga on a long term basis more easily than a cardio and exercise routine. If you are able to stick with a yoga practice the benefits in terms of fitness are huge: Improved strength, better balance, and improved flexibility.

7. Stress relief
Chronic stress has a direct bearing on our health and wellbeing. CDC estimates that chronic stress accounts for 75% of all doctor visits. 80-90% of industrial accidents are due to inability to handle stress. As we grow older stress within our system accumulates and eventually results in mental and physical disorder. Sadly nothing in our education or training shows us how to cope with stress. Yoga changes all this. Yoga is a proven and systematic way of reducing stress in our lives. It lifts the “cloud of stress” over our lives. It allows the process of self-healing, regeneration, and recovery to resume once chronic stress is reduced in our lives.

8. Improved sleep
Sleep disorders are widely reported to have reached epidemic proportions. An astounding 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorders. Unintentionally falling asleep, nodding while driving, and having difficulty performing daily tasks are some aspects of this. Sleep and stress are deeply interrelated. High stress levels cause us to get poor sleep and poor sleep results in high stress levels. Yoga allows us to break this cycle. Regular practice de-stresses our mind body enough to allow for improved sleep. Relaxed muscles and reduced anxiety also aide in better sleep. If you are having sleep related issues you should explore doing yoga regularly.

9. Weight loss agent
There are millions who are caught in a vicious “yo-yo” weight loss cycle. This refers to strict dieting and weight loss followed by an eventual bounce back to same weight or worse from where you started. Most weight loss diets are very effective in getting short-term results. But unfortunately there is very little help when it comes to long-term weight loss. One way to turn your short-term weight loss into permanent results is to incorporate yoga with your diet regimen. Yoga allows better sleep, reduces stress, improves mood, and allows better self-control. All these are critical for long-term weight loss.

10. Open hidden doors
Where do improved emotional, physical, and mental health due to yoga lead us? Improved relationships and career success for sure. But these are not the only doors that yoga opens for us. The yoga of postures is only one aspect of the yoga system, which when practiced fully leads us to become increasingly established in our deeper conscious self. This leads us to a fuller conscious experience and a happier life. It makes our life worth living.

This by no means is an exhaustive list of benefits. And yoga by no means is restricted to the well person. Patients suffering from all kinds of ailments from Cancer to PTSD have reported great benefits from doing yoga. So if you have been wondering what all the hoopla about yoga is, this provides you a quick overview. Maybe it is time to jump in with both feet and join the millions who are reporting great benefits from practicing yoga.

“When this body has been so magnificently and artistically created by God, it is only fitting that we should maintain it in good health and harmony by the most excellent and artistic science of Yoga.” – Geeta Iyengar

Related:
Top Ten Excuses For Not Doing Yoga
Eight Ways To Make The Most Of Your Yoga Practice
Six Ways Yoga Heals
Is Yoga Safe?
Why Yoga Matters
Six Surprising Facts About Your Ego

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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Gefn and Herja

Gefn And Herja

Gefn and Herja were good friends. They were both woodcutters and were very good at their trade and well respected for their skill and strength. One day they decided to have a competition to find out who was better of the two. They would cut wood from sunrise to sundown and the one who chopped the most wood would win. They were both very competitive and both wanted to win.

On the appointed day Gefn and Herja went into the woods and started chopping. They could hear each other chopping but could not see each other. From time to time Gefn would hear that Herja had stopped chopping wood. He thought, “Herja is resting. This is the time for me to gain some lead.” He would furiously chop more wood during this time. This went on for the entire day. When the sun set both of them collected the wood they had chopped and piled it up side by side.

Gefn thought, “I am sure to win. My arms are sore. I have chopped throughout the day while Herja rested from time to time.” But Gefn was amazed when he saw Herja’s pile was bigger and was declared the winner. When Herja saw the puzzled look over Gefn’s face he went over to him and said, “You know the time you thought I was resting? I was actually sharpening my axe. That way I could chop more than you did!”

“Sharpen the saw” is one of the seven habits of highly successful people as per Stephen Covey. It shows that it is not just enough to work hard to be successful. It is important to keep our skills up to date and take the time to sharpen them.

“Give me six hours to chop a tree and I will use the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

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What’s Possible

This is an amazing video three minute video in many respects. For starters it has been watched by 120 world leaders gathered at the United Nations special summit on the environment in September 23rd 2014. The other remarkable thing about this video is that it is about hope not despair. The reason for hope is that our lives hinge on the course we set out, and we have the technologies and the means to make the right choices. So instead of thinking that the problem is too big to solve, we should see it something that we can and absolutely must solve. For the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Related: TakePart.com

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I Love Yoga (Pants)!

I Love Yoga Pants

I love yoga. Actually, I don’t just love yoga, I love, love, love yoga. I love yoga culture. I love yoga inspirational sayings. I love yoga clothing. I love the concept of mindfulness living that often accompanies the yoga practice, with its emphasis on connecting mind, body and soul. We live in a world that encourages compartmentalization, so I appreciate pondering the concept of greater interconnectedness.

I love waking up in the morning and going online and reading all of the yoga-inspired quotes posted on my Facebook timeline from yogis around the world — each sharing ways that I can unblock my Chakras and live a more balanced life. I love my beautiful mint green Lululemon yoga mat. Sure, I had to choose between paying my son’s college tuition and buying this mat, but when I see it all rolled up and majestically leaning into the corner of my bedroom, gently reflecting the soft light streaming in from my window, I know I made the right choice.

I love the yoga body. Strong, long, lean and healthy. I love the yoga diet. Clean and organic, with no gimmicks. But more importantly, I love the yoga wardrobe, particularly the pants. I love how yoga pants make me feel. When I slide my yoga pants on in the morning and pull them up to my mid-tummy, I immediately feel thinner. Gone is the muffin top I must constantly mask when wearing my low-rise jeans. Gone is the feeling of rigid cloth cutting into my sides from my optimistic I’m-going-to-fit-into-these-pants-someday-dammit work slacks. Yoga pants gently hug me in a way that says, “let me do the work for you, and I’ll do it gently, so relax my dear, you’re nearly perfect just the way you are.” At last count I had 16 pairs of yoga pants and about 12 yoga tops (although I’m not as much of a fan of my yoga tops, particularly those with cut-out backs — I find those a bit, well, “judgey”).

I love everything yoga. Well, not necessarily everything. To date, I haven’t completely fallen in love with the actual practice of yoga. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve tried. I mean I’ve really, really tried, but I’ve found that engaging in the practice of yoga — and by that I mean going to yoga classes and attempting to make my body comply with the commands of the size-zero yoga instructor — isn’t nearly as nurturing and comforting as everything else yoga.

For instance, many of the yoga poses (called Asanas) make me feel inept, uncoordinated and kind of clunky. While some positions are a breeze, such as Child’s Pose, where I get to curl up in a ball, with outstretched arms, resting my head on my mat, other positions require a level of coordination and flexibility that pre-circa 2010 would have been reserved for an opening act at the circus (but more on that later).

I refuse to be intimidated into sitting on the sidelines any longer, though, and after years of immersing myself in all things yoga except yoga, I finally decided to take the plunge and attend a real, live yoga class.
When I walked into the yoga room for the first time, I looked around to get my bearings and I noticed mostly women spread somewhat haphazardly around the room. I quickly discerned the culture of mat placement, and quietly padded to an open spot toward the back of the room. Hoping not to disrupt the meditative silence in the room, I quietly unfurled my beloved mat (with a loud flap! that I’m certain could be heard in the parking lot), and placed it onto the floor in what I assumed to be close enough to the adjacent mats so as not appear to be a floor hog, but far enough away to avoid violating anyone’s personal space.

I looked around the room for guidance and noticed my fellow yogis sitting in what used to be called “indian Style,” but in the yoga world is referred to as the Half Lotus Position. I used to love sitting this way as a child — cross-legged, with my feet resting on the opposite thigh, turned upward toward the sky. Not so now. Any attempt to pull my feet inward toward the opposing thigh was met with ugly popping sounds and the skin on my thighs threatening to tear wide open. Still, I managed to pull off what I like to call the one-fifth lotus position. Proud that I had mastered my first Asana, I placed my hands on my knees, palms up, and following my yoga mates’ lead, I started breathing deeply.

The yoga instructor had at some point entered the room and taken her place in the front of the class. “Breathe,” she gently admonished. “Getting ready for our sacred time here today, let’s start by settling our minds by getting in touch with our breath. Clear your mind and just focus on your deep breathing.”

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I have to do laundry. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I need to pay the cable bill. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I wonder if my debit card was one of the ones hacked at the grocery store. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. My son needs new socks. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I forgot to get gas.

Now, it was time for some real yoga, which relieved me because I was starting to feel almost high from all that deep breathing, and my stress level was now through the roof. Apparently all that shallow breathing and static in my brain served as a deterrent from thinking about my very long to-do list. The next 45 minutes of this introductory class was spent teaching us basic poses. Repeat: basic poses. After about five minutes though I began to wonder if I’d accidentally entered the wrong class because there was nothing about these poses that seemed introductory. And what’s worse, I appeared to be the only one struggling. Whew. I spoke too soon. In the mirror I could see another fumbling fool. “Ha!” I thought. “She’s worse that I am!” Oh wait no, that’s me.

The instructor used Sanskrit names so we could get used to calling each pose by its correct Indian name, but unfortunately I have no head for languages so I couldn’t discern Adho Mukha Śvānāsana (Downward Facing Dog) from Ardha Matsyendrāsana (Spine Twisting Pose) to save my life. With each pose of what seemed to be of increasing complexity, I no sooner managed to twist and contort my body, that the instructor announced a new Asana. Willing bodies complied throughout the room — all except mine, that is.

While my co-yogis were gracefully engaging in perfectly formed Downward Facing Dogs, I was creating new positions such as the Sideways-Facing-Backwards-Falling-Stray. And while my fellow yogis were transitioning to Warrior 1 Pose with a smooth thrust of their leg in one uninterrupted and graceful forward-driving swing, I was teetering on tiptoes (in an attempt to create as much room as possible), willing my leg forward in three inch increments, in what I like to call the Stuttering-Stomach-Halting-Leg-Thrust.

When the instructor gave us a much-needed water break I sat uncomfortably in my One-Fifth-Lotus Position dying of thirst but with no water in hand (“dammit, I knew I forgot something!”). When the instructor told everyone to grab their blocks, I quietly arose, and feeling terribly embarrassed, tiptoed my way through a minefield of mats to the back corner of the room where yoga blocks were stacked to the ceiling (“ahhh, so that’s what everyone was doing back here before class!“).

Clearly, I didn’t belong. It was like eighth grade all over again, where I was still wearing late-’60s style hip-hugger bell-bottom pants long after 1970s Dittos jeans were all the rage. Or keeping within the athletic realm, it was like the 1980s when I was the only person in step aerobics without high-top Reeboks and leg warmers, or the 1990s when I was the only one in my Jazzercize class with completely rhythmless hips.

I had no business being in this room, I told myself, ticking off one reason after another. I wasn’t thin enough. I wasn’t graceful enough. I wasn’t limber enough. I hated being new. I hated feeling out of place. I hated feeling self-conscious. Yet another life experience where it seemed that everyone knew what they were doing, but me.

I was a yoga impostor.

Truth be told, I have suffered from the impostor syndrome — the belief that one is a fraud and does not deserve success, for as long as I can remember. I used to let the impostor syndrome stop me in my tracks in whatever new endeavor I was trying to master. Whether in my career, or in my personal life, I used to believe that feeling out of place, lost, and having no idea what I was doing, was a sign that I was unwelcome and would never belong — where that out-of-place feeling served as a sort of Do Not Enter sign warning me to turn around and skedaddle back in the other direction.

But life circumstances have prevented me from remaining within my comfort zone and forced me to realize that being comfortable at all times is often a luxury that only the chronically indulged and/or passionless can afford. Financial struggles when my son was younger pushed me into university teaching long before I was ready. The need for a more flexible schedule, higher income and a life of meaning forced me to push past my fear of entering a Ph.D. program when I was well into my 40s. A desire to share my life with someone special has forced me back into the dating world during my empty nesting years.

With many new venture in life, I have managed to endure feelings of discomfort by convincing myself that being out of my comfort zone was just a temporary phase, and before I knew it, those uncomfortable feelings were gone, and I belonged.

Maybe tackling yoga was just a matter of applying the strategies that I’ve employed in other areas of my life, such as my career or personal life, to the world of yoga, where an Asana is nothing more or nothing less than projects I accomplished at work, concepts I mastered in my graduate work, or fears I face in my personal growth journey.

The truth is that regardless of the situation or life domain, there is no new endeavor worth mastering that doesn’t leave one initially feeling out of place and out of one’s comfort zone. I could have walked out of that yoga class and never gone back. I could have continued on my path of embracing all things yoga except the actual practice of yoga, but instead I am sitting with my discomfort (and intermittent embarrassment), and letting my Chakras evolve at their own pace. Because after all, the living tradition of yoga isn’t just about a series of perfectly practiced poses, but rather yoga’s ultimate goal is to help people become aware of, and connected to their deepest nature. And in this crazy and hectic world of conflicting messages, most of which are negative, I think the world needs more yoga. I know I do.

Today I may feel like a yoga impostor as I attempt the Tree Pose (Vrksasana) (or what I like to call the ‘T-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ber-Tree-Pose’), but I trust that I won’t always feel this way. While I may never reach the advanced level of yoga where I can do the Handstand Pose (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) with ease, I will in time feel comfortable enough to know that I belong in a yoga studio as much as anyone else, trusting that the feelings of discomfort in any new adventure are just a part of the process — something to endure, something to get past, something that everyone experiences to some extent.

And so, with hands clasped together and raised to my heart, I say to all yogis and future-yogis alike, Namaste.

Credit: Written by Michelle Martin. Michelle is a social worker, educator and author of three books on a range of social problems. She has a PhD in peace researches causes and peaceful responses to global conflict. She is a contributing author for Huffington Post, and a yoga newbie. First published in Huffington Post here. Reposted with permission of author. You can find Michelle’ blog here, or her Facebook Page, or you can find her on Twitter: @drmconfesses.

Credit for the image: We found the image @Maurice’s Cartoon Blog.

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Liberation From Our Deepest Fear

Deepest Fear

“Our deepest fear, is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. … As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson. (Usually misattributed to Nelson Mandela)

So how do we rise above our fears? How can we go from being trapped in our shortcomings to rise up and meet our destiny? The answer can be found in this quote by Joseph Cambell:

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”

Our heroic transformation happens when we are able to set aside our ego and allow our consciousness to flow unhindered. This transformative process is also known as Yoga. It happens when:

  1. We quiet the mind so that we are completely in charge of our thoughts. (Raja Yoga or the Yoga of meditation).
  2. Or it happens due to our utter devotion and surrender to something bigger than ourselves. (Bhakti Yoga or the Yoga of devoted love).
  3. Another way it happens is when we are able to work selflessly towards our goals without any expectation, or concern for recognition, or fear of failure. (Karma Yoga or Yoga of selfless action).
  4. Yet another way our transformation happens is when we commit ourselves to continuous learning and self-improvement. We are so committed to the process of discovery that we are willing to go where this leads us by letting go of all our preconceived notions and false ideas. (Jnana Yoga or Yoga of knowledge).

The journey of Yoga is a journey out of fear. It is a journey of transformation where darkness gives way to light, and constant worry gives way to effortless joy. It happens when one or more processes mentioned here melts away blocks to the flow of consciousness. As consciousness unravels itself we are able to go beyond ourselves. Unconstrained and unfettered be the smallness of our ego, we truly become fearless children of God.

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Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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