Why should we practice Yoga? What are the benefits of practicing Yoga?
It is easy to describe the physical benefits of yoga, as well as the mental effects of a yoga practice.
The physical benefits of yoga include:
increased flexibility and strength
improved cardiovascular capacity
Reduced tension, pain, and inflammation throughout the body.
The positive mental effects of yoga include:
An increased sense of calm
Decreased feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety
Improved quality of sleep.
While these benefits are powerful and worthy reasons to practice yoga, the primary reason to practice Yoga is to realize a greater sense of Self.
The goal of Yoga as a philosophical or spiritual practice is to awaken to our own divine consciousness. Yoga, like many spiritual practices or traditions, believes that we come from pure (divine) consciousness or Source; and that when incarnate or become embodied we lose the awareness of our divinity or our connection to this Consciousness or Source. This loss of awareness is deepened and reinforced through our continued socialization and conditioning. This socialization and conditioning occurs through societal, familial, and cultural influences and limits our experience of the totality of our Selves. We form beliefs about who we are, what our potential is, and what behaviors are acceptable. The more we identify with these beliefs about ourselves, the more we are estranged from our Self. The yogic path is one of examining our socialization and conditioning, deciding what is serving our path to a greater experience of our Self and what is not serving us on that path. We have experienced this in our physical practice, we seek to release restrictions in our physical body so that we can experience a greater sense of freedom within our body, but we can also extend this practice beyond the physical body. Through Yoga, we can begin to release our limiting thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and identities. It is these limiting beliefs and identities that estrange us from our divinity or Authentic Self.
How do we continue along this path of reawakening to our Authentic Selves? Very simply do more yoga and meditation. What does that practice look like? Slow your practice down and be present, without judgment, to your experience of the practice from moment to moment. Be present, without attachment, to every physical sensation, every thought, and every emotion that arises during the practice. Finally, extend your practice into your daily life; and let your daily life become your practice.
Within Yoga, there are many paths that one can take to reawaken to our Authentic Self of Divinity and to reconcile with the Divine Consciousness or Source. It does not matter which path one takes, as they all lead to this reawakening and reconciliation.
Future blogs will explore those paths and the opportunities they represent.
I do not intend to portray myself as a yogic scholar, this blog represents my current understanding of the yogic path and my progress along that path. I fully acknowledge that understanding will change as I continue to practice and walk that path. My only hope is that this blog will stimulate and sustain a conversation among those seeking to walk the yogic path and those who are walking the various path at various points.
I welcome your thoughts, questions, and suggestions for future posts.