Living in Florida has several advantages, and one of them is being able to travel to different locations around the state. A change of scenery can change your attitude. This past week I spent time in Vero Beach. This was for some much-needed rest, relaxation and to think about the goals I have in motion for the rest of this year. The weather was perfect and the first morning on the beach began with a group yoga session. This group all gathered with their yoga mats to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic horizon. A light breeze was blowing warm air, but not too hot. It felt magical.
What I love about yoga is we each can take something from it that is personal. One may be a mantra for the day such as, “I embrace,” which could mean embracing the fact you are on the mat. Another may mean you embrace what is safe for you and you are doing your best. It also could be that you embrace the connection of your breathing or the strength you feel as you move through the asana poses. You embrace your spirit.
So often we lean on the side of finding fault with ourselves. In yoga this can be an easy path to go towards, and it can deter someone from continuing or even trying. Instead of focusing on what we may not do, I would encourage you to be grateful for the things we can do. The path of yoga is so much more than what many believe. It is a spiritual connection within your mind and body. You can learn so much about yourself when you are focusing on how your body is feeling and adapting to whatever you are doing within the moment. If you think about it, you can carry that philosophy into all parts of your life.
Recognizing your feelings and how it is affecting your body and mind can help you throughout your day. Let’s begin with your breathing. Pranayama or yoga breathing has several benefits for the mind and body. As I stated earlier, yoga poses are only a minor part of the practice. Breathing plays an enormous part of the eight limbs of yoga practice. The deep breathing exercises within yoga can bring many benefits to our life. Some of these benefits include relaxing your body and mind, reduce anxiety and promote overall wellbeing. Scientific studies have shown the benefits of a regular practice can also provide a reduction in hypertension, strengthen the respiratory system, aid in weight loss and healthy eating habits, improve digestion and boost the immune system.
Another limb of yoga is meditation. Several research studies have shown multiple benefits. Incorporating regular meditation into your yoga practice can create a calmness, relax the mind, bring self-awareness, and sharpen your concentration. A recent study from UCLA found that people who had been meditating for the long-term had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Another study at Yale University discovered mindful meditation decreases activity when our minds begin wandering, which can deter us from worrying and being less than happy.
When we practice yoga, think of it as the analogy of working with technology. Often when we are working with technology, we get frustrated because we either don’t understand or can’t do what we think it should do. For example, you can’t always compare one type of technology to another. Think of an Apple phone compared to an Android phone. Both work, but often if one user tries to explain a function to the other user, the communication is lost since the functions are different. When practicing yoga, it’s good to listen to your body and try not to make comparisons to others in the practice. We are each different and our makeup may allow us to feel and understand the practice of yoga on various levels. We may benefit more from meditation, breathing, postures or other practices within the eight limbs. Yoga practice encompasses a lifestyle and way of living and has many benefits. Learn to embrace and enjoy the benefits of each.