What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of yoga? A super-enthusiast yogi tied into impossible physical knots? That is a common stereotype but it actually isn’t true. Yoga is a 5,000 year old practice meant to be the calming link between mind, body and breath.
Sure, there are some difficult poses in yoga, but a good instructor will show the pose at all levels from beginner to pro.
There is nothing to fear with yoga. It is gentle, slow and uses mindful movements that leave a person feeling less stressed, relaxed and stronger, both mentally and physically.
Yoga: Practice for Life
According to Anne Cushman of The Yoga Journal, there is an estimated 6 million Americans practicing yoga. Those who practice it regularly enjoy:
- improved flexibility
- a straighter posture
- long, lean, toned muscles
It is not uncommon for a person to actually feel and appear taller after practicing yoga because of the additional space created between the spinal vertebrae as a result of the poses. All you need to start is the will to try. Yoga classes are often offered at the local YMCA, city community centers or professional yoga studios. It matters not where you start; the important thing is that you give it a try.
Yoga offers many benefits, both mental and physical. Even those who don’t believe it to be “mystical” will say that their butts have never looked better.
Don’t Hate: Meditate
Meditation is something people often do along with yoga as the two practices are very much meant to achieve the same things: peace, calm and mental clarity. The difference between yoga and meditation is that meditation is exercise for the mind more than the body.
There are many ways to begin meditating. First, you need a still, quiet place without distractions (this can be the hardest step for some people). Seated in a comfortable position, such as cross-legged on a cushion or rug, begin by clearing your mind. Clearing your mind means to try to think of nothing while focusing on breathing. Thoughts will come up, they always do. Simply acknowledge them and let them float away.
As you go beyond your thoughts, know that you are surrounded by peace and serenity. Chanting or repeating a positive phrase as your mantra is one way to keep your mind in this safe and tranquil state. The longer you stay in this state of mind, the more you will benefit.
Practicing yoga and meditation is proven to reduce stress, physical illness and anxiety caused by the chaos of everyday life. Dr. Bernie Siegel says in his book “Peace, Love and Healing” that “adding one or both to one’s lifestyle not only increases longevity, it brings an element of quietude and peace of mind powerful enough to change entire outlooks.” One might even say it changes life itself.
The infographic below is great a visual about the many benefits of yoga and meditation.
To see a larger version of this infographic, visit Elephant Journal.