Yoga has many aspects, and when practised in its most complete form, the ultimate aim is to discover the "Self" and improve the quality of our lives.
There are eight limbs to yoga, creating a "wheel of practice" and four paths, teaching us how to be successful in life and manage the mind.
Many people think about standing on a mat and performing poses when the word Yoga comes to mind. Still, the physical aspect is only 1 part of this incredible system that supports us through life's challenges.
Yoga is about what we do 'off the mat', as it is about what we do on the mat. Read a little more about the main components of yoga practice:
The exercise part of Yoga (the asanas) helps us balance the body and mind. When we live a sedentary lifestyle, heart disease and misalignment can become a problem and manifest as aches, pains, and illness in the body and mind.
Yoga is an inclusive practice that recognises that we are all different and have different needs and starting points. However, practicing yoga can help us manage and reduce stress with the proper guidance. Balance blood pressure levels (blood flow). Release Weight Build strength Increase body flexibility.
Work on toning and lengthening the muscles. Help with diabetes and inflammation. Soothes, aches, and pains, including chronic pain, back pain and neck pain. Breath is life, and Prana, flowing through our breath, is our life force.
We are not taught how to breathe correctly, but yoga provides simple and practical tools that enable us to become more aware of our breath. This helps us better deal with stress with improved stress management, so that there is less tension and discomfort within the body.
There are many breathwork exercises (pranayama). They all have different functions and purposes.
Still, we learn through pranayama how to use the lungs to their total capacity and exercise the heart and respiratory system correctly, which keeps us full of vitality and improved mental health.
Many of my students have reported improvements in Mental Wellbeing, Happiness, Focus, Motivation, Drive, Self-esteem, Clarity, A sense of purpose, Improvements in anxiety, depression and low mood, better sleep and ability to relax, feeling more in control, Nutrition is an integral part of yoga training.
Our health starts from within. How we feed our body affects all our well-being, from our hormone production to mental wellbeing, and, of course, the healthy function of our physical body.
Nutrition is an area I am passionate about. I enjoy helping people learn how to eat intuitively, educate each other about how the body functions, balance hormones, eat for gut health, and reduce inflammation and disease within the body. We do this to feel healthy and full of energy again, and enjoy eating whole foods again.
Our body must be respected and nourished accordingly. The right tools and simple processes will enable the body to rebalance itself and thrive again with this attitude. Many of my students, when combining my Health Habits Nutritional Programme with their yoga practice, have found they have:
Learning to relax and unwind properly is another crucial element in our yoga training. Our modern lifestyles have caused us to find quick-fix ways of relaxing, such as drinking alcohol, using recreational drugs, not sleeping, and being busy to avoid stillness. Being busy doesn't allow our bodies and minds to properly rest.
Stress is caused when our nervous system activates our "fight or flight" mode when we are not actively resting adequately. Chronic stress and fatigue can develop, leading to different diseases in the body and mind.
Deep and intentional relaxation is what we learn through our regular yoga practice. This is called restorative rest. As a yoga practitioners, my yoga students always leave my classes feeling energised, but equally rested.
Self-awareness and meditation enable us to live with more clarity, peace, trust and understanding about who we are. Everything starts with our thoughts!
When we deeply understand our body, we then deeply understand our mind, leading to understanding our lives.
Meditation is a powerful and straightforward tool that improves concentration, emotional awareness, balance, focus, and calm and spiritual awareness.
Meditation helps us calm the mind, chatter, step back, gain perspective on life, and enjoy the true meaning.
If you are a beginner at yoga meditation and want to learn how to relax your mind and body. Try this simple guided meditation for instant calm and renewal.
Yoga has long been associated with improved health conditions and wellbeing.
The benefits of yoga include improved fitness, improved mental focus, improved flexibility and improved emotional stability.
There are many styles of yoga.
Every yoga teacher will bring their own individual style to practice.
Still, the end goal is the same: to help us understand how our body functions and how to manage the mind. Hence, we gain a deeper understanding of who we are and liberate ourselves.
There is an intimate connection between our body, mind, and spirit. Movement, like yoga flows, is a great way to begin our own personal development journey.
As we move out of our heads and into our hearts and bodies, we start to unlock hidden layers of our true self, parts of ourselves that we may have forgotten. For example, our inner child loves to have fun, be adventurous, and get excited by all the discoveries of life.
Or, as our energy returns and we move out of our hands, we move more into our hearts, feel lighter, and gain more clarity about what we want, where we are going, or how we can deal with challenging situations.
When we live a sedentary lifestyle, disease and misalignments can become a problem for us and manifest as aches, pains, and illness within the body and mind.
Therefore, the exercise aspect of Yoga (the Asanas) helps us move back into our body and reconnect the body and mind, enabling us to become more present, focused and self-aware.
The Asanas have all focused on particular areas of our health and body. Therefore, we can create flows that meet our needs and may help release tension in a focused and concentrated way, or unblock and release stagnant energy.
As energy flows through the body, Nadis and the spinal column as it should be, we notice an incredibly positive impact on the mind, body and wellbeing.
Asanas are multi-functional. For example, let's look at the tree pose. Like every pose, there are modifications to suit your needs and ability. This yoga pose can be done sitting on the floor, standing up, on the mat, off the mat, with a chair or wall, or even with a partner.
The tree pose is beautiful. All of my students enjoy it. It improves balance as we stand on one leg (with guidance preparation); however, it also simultaneously improves our concentration as we still the mind and bring our focus to one point.
Tree yoga pose helps strengthen the calves, the ankles, and core stability that create length throughout the body. It provides us with a physical and tangible understanding of feeling grounded and strong, whilst being connected to something higher that is always assisting us through every move and choice we make.
As you can see, Yoga and Asana will help us gain muscle strength and body flexibility and improve balance. Still, it also helps us connect with ourselves on a deeper emotional and spiritual level, benefiting us in a far greater and wholesome way.
Yoga is an inclusive practice, some say spiritual practice, some say, because it recognises that we are all different and have different needs.
Still, yoga practice can help strengthen the body and improve flexibility, muscle tone, balance, and coordination with the proper guidance.
This will also affect other areas of our wellbeing, such as confidence, self-esteem, self-belief, and spiritual and personal development.
Yoga and meditation can improve sleep quality. There is more evidence and studies available now to support this.
In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, people who practised Hatha yoga three times per week for six months reported improved sleep quality and reduced stress levels.
Stress is the number one contributing factor to the disease, and according to the Mental Health Foundation, "in the past year, 74% of people felt so stressed they were overwhelmed or unable to cope."
Stress impacts the body's ability to relax properly. Most people haven't learned how to properly relax and rely on quick-fix solutions like alcohol, drugs, scrolling on phones, overeating, etc. All of which, over time, creates an imbalance within the body, because our nervous system has not been able to turn down its "flight or flight" response to the raised hormones created by the Sympathetic Nervous System. Therefore, we remain in a heightened state of stress, which leads to chronic stress, which can lead to many diseases, one of which is poor sleep.
A study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that people who practised a form of yoga called pranayama (breathing exercises/breathing techniques) before bedtime fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer than those who didn't practice it.
Practising a bedtime yoga routine 30 minutes before sleep is a great way to unwind and develop better sleeping habits.
Using some tailored stretches to open us up and release any resistance and tension helps us regularly practice letting go gently, preparing us for meditation, journaling, or listening to guided relaxation so we can relax and unwind.
Pranayama is good for calming the mind, and Analoma Viloma is particularly good at balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain, helping us feel relaxed, calm and centred.
Again, nutrition plays a big part in yoga practice and our wellbeing.
Making sure we are eating foods that do not agitate the mind and body will help us feel more in control and calm our minds more effectively.
Making sustainable adjustments to our diets with Healthy Habits is the best way to ensure that we nourish our gut health (which means balancing our microbiome environment and balancing our hormones) has a significant impact on our mental and physical wellbeing, our ability to focus, calm, and feel less anxious and stressed.
Jagadish "Jaggi" Vasudev - Sadhguru
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that people who practice yoga regularly had lower cortisol levels (a hormone released during stressful times) than those who did not practice yoga.
Researchers believe this may explain why yoga has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.
We are what we think!
And everything starts with our thoughts and feelings. If we are unable to control our mind (our monkey mind), we cannot effectively centre ourselves.
Meditation and mindfulness provide us with the tools to strengthen and centre our minds.
When we are not present and feel in our "here and now", we either spend our time worrying about the past that no longer exists, or we are thinking and worrying about the future that also doesn't exist.
When we exist in these two illusionary worlds, we become stressed, irritable, and unsettled. This can manifest within the body and also in our minds.
Therefore, bringing awareness to our breath brings body awareness to the bridge between the body and the mind. Yogas stem from the root word "yug," meaning "yoke" or "union of."
Therefore, the practice of union between breathing, the mind and the body is a path that helps us liberate ourselves from the patterns of stress, anxiety, overthinking, and instead become more present, grounded, focused and calm.
Over time, with committed practice, stress will leave the body. It is easier to manage stress when we fully embody this present concept.
We learn how to rest the Nervous System effectively through yoga, helping us feel more energised, relaxed, and centred.
Meditation is a powerful and simple tool that can be practiced for just 5 minutes and immediately improve our concentration, emotional awareness, focus, mood, and spiritual wellbeing.
Meditation helps us observe our thoughts and let them go, rather than getting caught up in the storm of our thoughts.
This practice will strengthen the mind as we calm the mind, chatter, help us take a step back, know the storm will pass, and gain a clearer perspective to enjoy the true meaning of life.
Yoga improves flexibility, strength, balance, posture, deep breathing control, concentration, energy levels, and wellbeing. Because of the inclusive nature of yoga, it always brings together a like-minded and supportive community.
Having a supportive community is essential to an individual's growth. Yoga is an all-inclusive practice regardless of age, sex, ability, disability, and nationality. Everyone is welcome to develop their own practice of "Self-awareness" through Yoga.
When an individual feels empowered.
With knowledge about the self, their body and mind connection, it builds self-esteem and self-belief.
A like-minded community will always support you through the growing pains of personal development. They will catch you when you fall, or be there with a cup of tea and a listening ear.
Personal growth and self-discovery. It is a beautiful journey, but one that is best accomplished with support and guidance.
We are human beings, and it's our nature to long for a sense of belonging. That's why I always ensure that my students are connected to an environment that promotes growth around the yoga classes themselves. They have many opportunities to learn more about themselves and deepen their practice with workshops and courses.
It is also easier to stay committed to a practice when accountability is around you.
Sharing a personal goal with an accountability partner is key to ensuring that we don't give up when things get tough, or simply knowing that someone is there for us when we need extra encouragement.
Scientists have long recognised yoga's health benefits, but only recently have researchers begun to understand why. Yoga helps us relax and calm the mind, providing a healthy outlet for anxiety and stress.
Yoga has also been shown to immediately affect the body, specifically the "mirror" neurons in our brain. Mirror neurons are involved, from helping us feel empathy from others to helping us understand another person's perspective.
When we do yoga, we can see ourselves differently and more positively. We have greater self-awareness, self-confidence and self-esteem when we get outside our own head and take time for ourselves.
When we are relaxed and feel good about ourselves, it is easier to accept and love who we are.
As we see the real permanent benefits of yoga, more research will be done to show how our brain is changing for the better and how it affects our state of mind.
Yoga is not just an exercise, but a way to improve quality of life. Through its practice, we learn more about our physicality and connect to what we are, rather than how we appear. Being able to flex and bend, stretch out your body and engage with it differently. Practising yoga daily helps build strength and flexibility in muscles that you've never even noticed until you flex them. You will feel your muscles throughout your body from head to toe and back again, working out many parts of the body by moving them in different positions using yoga postures.
This will allow you to build strength from the inside out. Taking a moment to stretch out and be "mindful" of your body can also help people see their bodies as whole human beings, not just as an entity.
When we give our body what it needs and wants, it will return the favour back to us.
You won't need to spend hours at a gym or use any equipment. The body is all you need to practise yoga, because when we are mindful of our bodies, we build more strength on the inside while cultivating peace, calmness and calm in our life.
Mindfulness can be a difficult concept to grasp. Thousands of books are written on the subject, and libraries are filled with self-help books. But it's not something we can read about and understand. It's something we need to practice repeatedly until it becomes a habit.
We live in a world of distractions, where the mind constantly moves from thought to thought, never stopping for a break. We need to prioritise our time to help us become more focused, experienced, and happy in life.
Yoga can help us find more time for meditation, move, and be active again.
We are always doing something with our hands, feet, or eyes. Yoga helps you become more mindful of your breath as it moves through your body, helping you sit still and be quiet (or silent) as you sit at a desk working.
This allows our minds to slow down and reflect on what is going on in the surrounding moment. This helps many people feel more relaxed about their daily life. If we are not distracted enough by the outside, we can learn how to disconnect from the outside and focus on ourselves.
Self-care comes in many forms. Yoga and mindfulness give us the space and opportunity to study ourselves profoundly and understand that we are all on a journey of expansion and growth.
As babies, we are free in spirit.
We do not worry about the past or future.
We are present beings, expressing ourselves fully and enjoying every moment and life's simple joys.
The world has conditioned us, society, and the surrounding environment as we grow up. We often haven't been through sitting fully with our own values, philosophies, and personal beliefs.
Rather than living from a place of genuine authenticity, we abuse the behaviours and beliefs of others, internalising them as our own.
It isn't until we stop, create space for our personal development, and look inside that we evaluate who we truly are and what we truly believe.
Value: Do we live more authentically and compassionately?
When we start this "awakening" process, we engage in what selfcare truly means; loving who we are and being in the world from a place of authenticity, love, strength, self-empowerment, joy, contentment, peace.
This is a beautiful process that I lead my students through in my Mind Health Programme, which gives us tools and yoga practices to help us release anxiety, fear and self-protection, unfold our true selves and understand who we are.
As we observe our thoughts and behaviour through mindful practice, we can then build Healthier Habits that promote better self-care, for example: