You’ve heard of the mind-body connection that comes from practicing yoga. But did you realize, yoga can even help you access the deeper parts of yourself like your heart and soul? The mental, emotional, and physical benefits of yoga are worth exploring.
Yoga has been found to help many mind issues through poses, breathing, and meditation. It is through working the body that we can heal the mind.
Emotional, Physical and Mental Benefits of Yoga and Meditation
Here are some of the benefits of yoga and meditation that explain how yoga strengthens the body and heals emotional issues.
The physical strength you have will bring emotions you didn’t even know you had to the surface. Better out of you than inside of you. The yoga poses are designed to elevate the brain to a higher state where you don’t ruminate and you can focus on your truth. You are able to better process your feelings as they come to the surface instead of repressing them again.
Yoga Enhances the Mind
For those who experience addiction or for someone who has a mental disorder through no fault of their own, the mental benefits of yoga are the key. Many addiction programs incorporate yoga poses, breathing, and meditation. Part of an overall holistic treatment for mood disorders like PTSD, chronic anxiety, and clinical depression now includes yoga. The scientific evidence continues to stack on the mental benefits of yoga.
One of the best benefits of yoga is that it calms the body through various poses. While releasing tension in the hips, back, and shoulders, messages are sent to the brain that it’s okay to relax. This reduces levels of cortisol, bringing them back to a natural state of balance. The nervous system becomes relaxed so you experience greater clarity and focus. Deep belly breathing really helps clear the mind and can help reduce the mental chatter that causes rumination. To learn to just take a look at what is happening in your mind and learning to neither cling or resist helps to bring balance in your life. It is the mind that is responsible for the way you feel emotionally.
Yoga Helps Emotionally Connect to the Divine
There is a very deep aspect of yoga. Whether you believe in a higher sense of self, a divine energy in the world, or the soul, you can probably experience the benefits of yoga regardless. The sense of calm that comes over you, the light you sense even when your eyes are closed. Yoga allows you to become more conscious of all the parts of yourself. When you can feel that you are more than just the skin you’re in, this can help you think of life in a different way. Knowing that there is more to life than just going to work or having nice things brings depth into your life.
You learn not to fuss about the small things in life. The ego has less control over your life, which really is the source of all your suffering. You stop feeling competitive towards other people and are more prone to offer your help and guidance in the world.
When you connect to your own divine self, you begin to understand that you’re never alone because you feel the connection with everyone. This knowing changes the way you think. There are less fear and more inclination to live life fully, leaving your heart open for all experiences. When you do the good things in life because you think good thoughts, there is less negative mental chatter.
Yoga Builds Physical Strength
Another benefit of yoga is that pretty much all types of yoga are designed to build your physical strength. You might only feel like you’re stretching your body when you do yoga. When you stretch your quads, you are strengthening the alternate muscles. So while you may not exactly feel that you’re putting pressure on certain muscles, you are getting stronger. Yoga focuses on working on many small muscles, which is why yogis will have such toned bodies and defined muscle tone.
Related: Bonding with Your Child Through Yoga
Through being gentle, we become mentally and physically stronger. When you’re doing sun salutations and warrior series, you are working your arms, shoulders, legs, back and all the other small muscle systems.
The poses in between like downward facing dog and plank work all parts of your body. Many poses prompt the body to engage the core or glutes, making those areas stronger. Creating a strong core is important for how the physical body moves.
When you practice yoga daily, your strength will come and you’ll barely notice its happening. All of a sudden, you’ll be able to pick up something heavy without pain. You’ll be able to hike a mountain with ease or carry far more bags of groceries into the house at once.
Which Yoga Practice is Right for You?
It is important to distinguish between the different types according to what you want from a Yoga practice. Here are the most popular types, and why they appeal to certain people.
- Anusara: A practice that usually revolves around a heart oriented theme. The teachers look for the good in all things, especially within their students and themselves. The practice is committed to helping build self esteem while integrating playfulness in a light-hearted environment. This practice is ideal for those who like to use their Yoga practice for spiritual as well as physical growth.
- Ashtanga Yoga: This is a system of Yoga that is a modern adaptation of classical Indian Yoga. It is a more rigorous, and strict practice. Traditionally Ashtanga is taught in a format with each practitioner moving through the series at his or her own pace. Now, many Yoga schools offer led Ashtanga classes for all levels. This practice is ideal for those who want a stricter, traditional, structured and challenging Yoga practice.
- Hatha Yoga: Hatha Yoga is a general term meaning a type of Yoga that holds a certain pose for many breaths. Most classes in the West can be classified as Hatha Yoga. If a class is described as Hatha, it will most likely be friendly towards beginners.
- Hot Yoga: A series composed of 90 minutes, 26 postures 2 breathing exercises practiced in a hot room. No matter when or where you go, most hot Yoga classes consist of the same sequence of postures every time. The idea is that you see your body change while the postures do not. Because of this, it is a great style of Yoga for beginners. There is major sweating involved, which helps detox the body and can help you lose weight, and the heat is ideal for people who want more flexibility. You may have heard this practice referred to as Bikram Yoga, but most studios have transitioned away from founder Bikram Choudhury, who turned out to be not such a great person.
- Iyengar Yoga: In an Iyengar class, you move through a handful of Yoga postures, and hold them in the correct alignment for long periods of time. The teachers must undergo an extensive training, so it is good for someone seriously interested in Yoga or anyone with chronic pain or specific injury they are healing.
- Kundalini Yoga: In Kundalini Yoga, the emphasis is on the breath and various breathing techniques in conjunction with the Yoga posture. The main theme of this style of Yoga is to help the energy in the lower body move upward. Because it is rooted in energy and the chakras, it can be viewed as more of a mystical style of Yoga. It can also be a mentally and physically challenging class. It would be a great practice for anyone who feels like they are stagnant in life or could use some cleansing.
- Power Yoga: Many people associate this style of Yoga with a workout, as it flows with an energetic pace. Each class will vary from teacher to teacher. This is an ideal class for someone who is already fairly physically fit, enjoys a challenge, and wants minimal chanting and meditation.
- Yin/Restorative Yoga: A style of Yoga that strives to achieve physical, mental and emotional relaxation with the use of props to help you melt into relaxing poses. Each restorative pose is meant to be held for a couple minutes. This is an ideal practice for beginners or anyone who wants Yoga to be a relaxing experience.
- Vinyasa Yoga: Similar to Power Yoga, It is an energetic flow. You change postures each couple of breaths by flowing from one posture to another. Usually set to music, this style of Yoga is different every time and can be a challenging way to use Yoga to gain strength, flexibility and coordination. This is a good for people who like to move and like a challenge.
- Viniyoga/Yoga Therapy: This is specific to healing a certain injury. The sequences are designed with safety and anatomic principles in mind. These classes are slower paced, with the goal of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health. This is an ideal class for someone recovering from illness or injury and/or beginners who want to take it slow.
All Yoga is designed to open your heart and help you experience peace. Everyone must start somewhere; wherever you are is where you will begin. It’s all about taking time out for yourself, and with consistency, your Yoga practice will evolve at a pace that is best for you.
Embracing the Benefits of Yoga in Your Daily Routine
When practiced regularly in the morning, afternoon or evening, there are so many mental, emotional, and physical benefits of yoga. You will become more flexible, and perhaps the most surprising benefit is how you can heal your heart and mind. You’ll feel more mentally balanced and your emotions won’t be all over the place. In the controlled environment of a yoga class, you can begin to look at pain stored in the body. It is often pushed to the surface through yoga poses and the breathing.
Not sure you can incorporate yoga practice into your routine with little ones running around? Involve them in the practice and use it as a time to bond with your child through yoga.
You use meditation to take an inquisitive look at your pain and then you release it. When you learn to let go of the emotions that come up, you free yourself from it for good. This is the power of yoga.