The practice of yoga is well known, and yet often poorly understood. Popular images include developing the ability to twist the body into unimaginable postures or to balance on one leg without falling over. Delve a little deeper and you’ll discover that yoga is suitable for the young or the old. And that it’s not necessary to be strong, fit or flexible to benefit from this ancient system of exercise.
Already the benefits become clear but if you stop there, you’re missing a whole side of what yoga has to offer. The truth is that yoga and spirituality are intertwined and that the mental and spiritual benefits of yoga are just as important as the physical positive effects.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
Making yoga part of your daily life will:
- Increase physical strength and flexibility – Yoga is a great way to ward off the joint stiffness that can come with age
- Increase stamina – And also increase bone density and joint strength
- Improve blood circulation and promote healthy blood pressure – Regular yoga exercises have been shown to normalize high blood pressure
- Improve the efficiency of the immune system – Yoga has positive effects on all four major components of the immune system. That’s the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems.
Mental Benefits of Yoga
The breathing and relaxation exercises incorporated into the physical poses are responsible for yoga mental benefits. These include:
Lower stress levels – Yoga promotes the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Increased concentration – Since the mind and body are linked it’s no surprise that improved physical health will also improve mental performance.
- Increased awareness – Learning to do one thing, with full conscious control will, over time, translate to an increased awareness of all actions.
Spiritual Benefits of Yoga
Some schools of yoga place a strong emphasis on the physical poses, others concentrate more on the mental and emotional aspects of the practice. Ask twenty different yoga practitioners, what is the purpose of yoga for you, and you’re likely to get twenty different answers. But almost all will agree that yoga is a form of exercise that can have positive spiritual health benefits. The most accurate translation of the word itself is ‘union’ and fundamentally, yoga is about integrating the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self.
Those who recognize the spiritual side of yoga to be as important as the physical sometimes refer to the seven spiritual laws of yoga. These are:
- Pure potential – In recognizing that you are part of the universal field of consciousness you realize that your potential creativity is infinite.
- Giving and receiving – If you want to keep love, and all else that is positive in this world circulating, you need to both offer yourself to others and accept the gifts that come your way.
- Karma – The energy you put out into the world will eventually be returned in kind. So kindness is what you should aim for in all your actions.
- Least effort – Fight the universe and life will be a struggle. Accepting the unfolding of life and travelling in the direction it takes you will lead you most surely to your true purpose.
- Intention and desire – When you clearly define your pure intentions and hand them on to the infinite potential of the universe you maximize the ease with which your heart’s true desires can be fulfilled.
- Detachment – Learning not to be disturbed by the trivial and sometimes mystifying unfolding of life. In the end, all will be as it should.
- Dharma – Everything in life has a true purpose or Dharma. Yogis believe that the greatest joy and fulfilment is found by uncovering and offering up their unique talents for the purpose of making this world a better and more loving place.
When It’s Time for the Next Step
Setting aside a regular time in your day for your exercises and concentrating on completing them mindfully in an unhurried and reverent manner will get you a long way. Yoga retreats can be a good way to regain your focus if you’re feeling bogged down or stuck in your daily concerns.
Sometimes the issue is bigger than just feeling bogged down. Maybe you’re seeking to take the next step in your spiritual development, or perhaps you’re beginning to recognize that your personal or professional life no longer suits your spiritual goals and you need to make a radical transformation. Ayahuasca retreats with yoga are something to consider at this point.
Ayahuasca is becoming increasingly recognized as a way for those seeking to integrate their daily life with their spiritual development and combining it with the grounding and calming practice of yoga is a great way to support yourself through the times when your spiritual path is rocky or the way ahead is unclear.