The practice of yoga has evolved into a fitness fad that peaked in popularity thanks to Madonna and Lululemon Wunder Unders. Yoga originated in ancient India as a discipline that helps an individual achieve a peaceful state of mind to experience the true self. Modern-day yoga is now typically accepted as a form of exercise that increases flexibility and sculpts the body.
Although yoga provides those physical and aesthetic benefits, it’s also a holistic remedy and natural elixir for the mind, body and spirit. Yoga can tighten the core and tone legs, but it also has powerful healing capabilities. The mind, body and spirit are all interconnected. If you can release emotional stress through warrior pose, you can embrace gratitude in tree pose. If you can quiet the mind in child’s pose, you can eliminate neck pain in standing forward fold. Yogis at any level of expertise can use the practice to remedy physical pain, mental suffering or a spiritual disconnection within the self.
The story of yoga instructor Heidi Kristoffer is a perfect example of how yoga can successfully heal the body. She suffered from a straightened cervical spine, herniations and broken vertebrae in her lumbar spine after a car accident. Yoga helped Kristoffer alleviate her her injury-related pain and free areas surrounding the neck from tension. Of course, neck or back pain may be such a debilitating experience that it goes beyond yoga healing and necessitates surgical treatment. However yoga can eventually complement recovery exercises after an invasive spine procedure.
Not only is yoga a pain-relieving tool, it’s a method for anxiety and stress-management. Concentrating on postures and engaging in a mindful yoga flow can serve as mental therapy. As you quiet your head space, replace negative thoughts of regret or fear with thoughts of letting go and empowerment. Yoga calms the mind and relaxes the body.
Researcher Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University, conducted a study including 200 breast cancer survivors. “The group that had practiced yoga reported less fatigue and higher levels of vitality,” according to National Geographic. Boosted energy can promote balance, elevate moods and increase endorphins that positively affect your mental and emotional health. Yoga’s soothing stretches and gentle movements can still boost those stress-relieving endorphins, notes Dhan Yoga, a national leader in health and wellness that focuses on the Korean healing philosophy and East Asian energy principles. He recommands tuning into your breath and engaging in an energized meditative state with decompressing yoga positions, such as eagle pose and extended triangle pose.
Yoga is a self-awakening journey. With mindfulness, integrity and humility, you can explore your inner self to achieve self-realization. Heightened spirituality and deeper connections start with awareness. Yogis who can culture their awareness can look forward to increased confidence in their feelings and intuitions. The journey of self-discovery can also encourage growth, reduce the ego and promote acceptance. Just be prepared to feel vulnerable and expose weaknesses. Throughout this journey, you’ll face obstacles (e.g. fear, false identity, ignorance) and refine your awareness. It will, however, help you redirect your attention toward “new, conscious action” for a happier existence.
For yogis on a quest for self-transformation, Yoga International’s Amy Pearce-Hayden, founder of The Yoga Scape and creator of the online video series “YouYoga,” offers a 7 Day Self-Discovery Challenge.