Yoga has enabled me to find a healthy balance in all aspects of my life. It has transformed my once all-or-nothing mindset to one of compromise. By letting go of the things I cannot control, I can appreciate the ebbs and flows of life with a different (and certainly more relaxed) perspective. It’s helped me to be able to live and experience, rather than
exist and resist.
We have become so disconnected from ourselves. In the age of technology where our minds are constantly distracted and flooded with jargon as we watch life through screens, we often become lost in a trance and lose touch of reality and ourselves. We forget to check in with our-selves and notice how we are truly feeling. Allowing ourselves the time to breathe, move our bodies and switch off from the outside world, enables us to connect back to our true selves, noticing the things we may normally ignore and giving us the tools and time to re-connect and understand who we are on a deeper level.
It can relieve anxiety and depression
After struggling with mental illness for around a decade (namely eating disorders, anxiety and depression) and trying every kind of therapy my family could think of (CBT, Psychotherapy, Prozac Hypnotherapy, – you name it, I’ve tried it), nothing worked for me the way yoga has. Taking the time to practise every morning relieves me of symptoms of anxiety, alleviates depression, helps me to connect to and accept my own body and self as I am right now and allows me to flow through the rest of my day in a state of calm, rather than panic. I noticed the drastic difference in myself as soon as I started practising regularly and have never looked back. It has become the most vital tool of my recovery maintenance; my medication if you like, in its most natural and effective form.
Concentration and focus
Focusing on synchronising breath with movement is a powerful tool for improving our concentration span. Doing this for an hour each morning has allowed me to learn to still the mind, de-clutter the mess and thus give my head more space to utilise my concentration span and ability to focus on important tasks throughout my day, without my mind wondering.
Karma yoga is taking the philosophy of yoga and putting it into action. It means selfless service, humbling the ego, embodying the ‘unity’ that is yoga, being part of something bigger than yourself. Karma yoga is the yoga of action. It is about purifying the heart through acts of selfless-service. It teaches us compassion for ourselves and for others, and kindness without exception or gain. This practise is something we can all be doing in all aspect of our lives. Community service, volunteering, taking the time to listen to someone, holding a door open, giving up our own time to help someone else are all great examples of the practise of karma yoga. If everyone was practising this all the time, wouldn’t the world be a much nice place?
The power of the pause
I used to be completely obsessed by time. Watching each second tick away as I anticipated the next activity, distraction, self-soother, break, meal, event. I was never in the moment because I was always either looking back, reminiscing over lost memories, or looking forward, attempting to tell my own future, feeling anxious or desperate as I waited for that next thing. Savasana, or corpse pose, was (and still is) the pose that I find most difficult. For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, it’s that pose right at the end of a class, where you lie on your back with your eyes closed, allowing your body to completely relax. And that’s why I found it so hard, because I didn’t know how to relax, I didn’t know how to do nothing. Practising this pose has taught me patience, which has transferred itself to all aspects of my life. Rather than feeling stressed and angry whilst stuck in traffic or waiting for a delayed train, I now take a moment to pause, realise that the circumstances are completely out of my control, but remember that my own reactions are completely within my control. Will feeling stressed and angry make the train arrive faster? No. Will watching the clock make the seconds tick quicker? Still no. Will my anxiety resolve the current issue or make it worse? Probably make it worse. Will breathing and remaining calm make you feel better? Most definitely.
It teaches you self-care
It was only when I began to practise yoga, that I could fully understand what this meant. Taking action to preserve my own health or to protect my own happiness is something I have never even thought about before, let alone done. I began to realise that the more time I spent on myself, doing things that benefit me, that feel good; the better I felt in every aspect of my life. I realised that ‘being selfish’ can in fact be an act of selflessness; in that if you take care of yourself first, you have more to give to others. Although self-care can be anything from a hot bath, to a nap, a walk or an afternoon reading a good book, I feel that no activity embodies the practise of self-care as well as yoga does (for me anyway). When you practise you are giving yourself time and permission to check-out of reality, to focus on absolutely nothing but yourself. It is your gift of time to yourself. You are taking care of your body, mind and spirit simultaneously and the difference this act of self-care can make to your life is incredible.