By Laurie Larson
Yoga is based on spiritual principles and, when practiced regularly, can provide countless health benefits. The practice of yoga offers relaxation and calmness of mind as well as rejuvenation of mind, body, and spirit. Through breath control, meditation, and specific postures, yoga practice can improve your overall health, both mentally and physically. By applying these five basic principles, you can enrich your life far beyond just the time spent in your yoga sessions.
Practicing yoga involves exercise that is less strenuous than, say, an hour-long cardio workout. However, it is just as intense in terms of its benefits. Yoga practice consists of postures, or asanas, that stretch the entire body. These postures will tone your muscles and provide support for the health of your spine and skeletal system. Not only do these poses support physical health, maintaining them during a yoga session will also exercise your mind. They support increased concentration, contentment and calmness, among others. Practicing yoga is excellent exercise for both mind and body.
In day-to-day life, as you face distractions and stressors, it is easy to lose awareness of your breath. The next time you are feeling off-track mentally or physically, notice your breathing. More often than not, you will become aware that you are not breathing deeply and may even notice that you are hardly breathing at all! Making it a habit to be aware of your breathing will make it easier to stay focused since deep breathing provides needed oxygen to your brain and all the cells in your body. Control of the breath, or pranayama, can be practiced when you are feeling stressed, but you can also practice it throughout your day, as an overall stress management tool.
The stressors of modern life can really do a number on your ability to relax. By applying the yoga principle of relaxation, or savasana, you allow yourself to relax every muscle in your body. By doing this, you rejuvenate your nervous system, giving a sense of inner peace. Yoga teaches you the importance of getting quality rest and sleep. To ensure that you get the restorative sleep you need, make sure you have a system to wind down before bed, that you are eating properly, and that your bed is a comfortable place to sleep. If you are having trouble getting comfortable at night due to back pain or other chronic pain, you may consider replacing your mattress. Yoga practice, combined with quality sleep, can go a long way in terms of your overall health.
Another way to bring awareness to your overall health is to be mindful of what foods you put into your body. Eating fewer carbohydrates and eating more proteins, along with nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables such as kale and blueberries will maximize the power of your food intake and give you more energy, both physically and mentally. It is also important to only eat until you are full. You can do this by simply listening to your body, but if you are finding it hard to regulate the amount of food you eat, you might want to invest in a food scale to monitor your portions. If you are choosing the proper foods, however, you will notice that you naturally become more aware of when you have eaten enough.
Positive Thinking and Meditation
The combination of the principles of positive thinking (vedanta) and meditation (dhyana) in yoga practice are a powerful tool for changing the way you look at and feel about life. They are what allows you to be content with what is and make it easier for you to find gratitude for what you have. This enlightening combo is really the basis for all the other principles, in that it holds the power to find happiness in every moment. By practicing daily meditation and habitually recognizing that every situation holds something positive, life becomes less of a burden and more of a joyous adventure.
Laurie Larson writes on health, lifestyle, and home topics to help others live healthier and happier lives.