How Yoga Can Improve Your Spiritual Health
What’s your definition of spirituality? Spirituality is universal, yet in many ways, it’s personal, just like yoga itself. There are countless benefits to practicing yoga. Many people enjoy it because it helps them to feel good and fit physically. Others love a peaceful hour away from their busy lives. For many, what makes yoga special, is the spirituality.
Yoga Benefits More Than Your Physical Health
In our culture, yoga is often thought of as a physical exercise. If you consistently practice certain types of yoga regularly you’ll improve your strength, stamina, and develop great posture.
Although there are many physical benefits to practicing yoga, the benefits reach far beyond your physical body. Yoga can help you work through psychological changes, emotional stress, and connect with a higher power as well.
The word yoga translates to union and when practiced correctly, the mind, body, and spirit of a person can become aligned and well. In addition to the asanas, aka poses, meditation, and pranayama (breathing exercises) are particularly helpful in creating more wellness in the mind and body and a deeper connection to your authentic self and/or a higher power (God, The Universe, Allah, whatever you call it).
As with almost all other things, the more consistent and dedicated you are to your yoga practice, the more access you’ll gain to wellness, alignment, and blissful states of being.
Our spirit is the unchanging part of us. It’s everything we do. It’s our higher consciousness: the reason behind our thoughts, our motivation, and our driving force. When practicing yoga on a regular basis, we can become more aware and in-tune with the unchanging spirit within us.
Life for many people is busy and full of distractions that cloud our ability to understand what’s best for us, why we’re here, what our next decision should be, and how we play a part in the world. Yoga asks us to sit in silence with ourselves so we can become aware of what we’re experiencing and accept life as it is in the current moment.
This awareness of yourself will have a significant effect on how you live and your interaction with others. This is how little by little, yoga on your mat changes life off your mat.
Sitting in silence is a big challenge for a lot of people. Becoming aware of your current life whether that be your relationships, job, health, or all of it plus some can feel painful. We’ve often allowed ourselves to be distracted because it’s easier than facing the truth. Although reality may be a challenge to face, becoming aware and accepting it as truth is the where change comes from and healing begins.
Yoga will not help you get rid of negativity by controlling your environment or mind. Instead, yoga will remind you that life has no “sweet spot.” In life, you may still be ignored by your lover or chastised by your boss. Your car may run out of gas and your neighbor’s dog may still bark all night.
You’ll almost always find something in your life that could be improved or changed. Thankfully, our yoga practice allows us to find happiness even when things are different than we imagine they should be. It also empowers us to trust that things in our life are happening for us instead of to us.
Yoga physically, mentally, and spiritually empowers you to take control of your life with a sense of trust that we can’t always see the big picture. It asks us to be present and strong while also being fluid and able to roll with the ebbs and flows of life around us.
Quiet Your Mind
Often, in life, people are busy focusing on their performance and analyzing their actions instead of just being. In order to develop awareness, you need to make the time and space to connect with your deeper self.
Yoga is a great opportunity for this. Some styles of yoga (like vinyasa) emphasize lots of vigorous poses. These can be a great way to prepare the body to sit still without being a distraction to the mind.
If you find it challenging to sit in a comfortable position, feel free to sit on a block, blanket, or bolster. Once you’re able to sit comfortably you’ll realize it’s much easier to focus your mind.
After you’ve made yourself comfortable, gently close your eyes or let your eyes gaze a fixed spot shortly in front of you. Then the practice of focusing and quieting the mind begins.
Be patient with yourself. Our minds are usually consuming loads of information, they’re not used to stillness. It is helpful to focus on your breath. Whenever your mind starts to wander, as it inevitably will, just bring it back to watching your breath.
Try not to attach to the feelings you experience or the thoughts you have. Realize they are not you and let them all come and go without labeling them as part of who you are.
Be aware, and be grateful, for the practice. If you have an attitude of gratitude and surrender to the mat, freeing yourself from everyday life, yoga will be a spiritual practice for you.
Yoga is Not a Religion
You don’t have to be a certain faith to practice yoga. In fact, no faith is needed because yoga is not a religion. Yoga can be a spiritual experience. However, it is not linked to any organized religion or form of worship.
As mentioned earlier, yoga means to unite or join. Different yogis will view this joining or union in different ways. Some may feel that it is uniting yourself with a spiritual force or higher power. Others may believe that it is about uniting all aspects of yourself and your life. Still, others may believe it’s a joining of body, mind, and spirit.
Whether you believe in one God, many gods, or nothing at all, asanas can be like a prayer, helping you work through problems by quietly focusing on breath and moving reverently.
The next day your prayer may come. You might feel a jolt of completion or recognition that will take you back to the way you felt on the mat when you were totally in the moment.
Yoga is a way to cultivate wholeness. It can help you remember wholeness and recognize it everywhere. For some yogis, wholeness is the spiritual practice of yoga.
Spirituality helps you trust in life and yourself even when managing difficult situations. When you’re connected in the self, inner peace grows. You’ll find you’re more capable of caring and loving for yourself and others and you’ll experience the joy of being who you are by deepening your yoga practice.