The Benefits of Mindful Yoga
At first glance, yoga can seem intimidating. There are the fancy studios filled with die-hard fans, trendy matching yoga sets, and a seemingly neverending series of uncomfortable postures (known as asanas) that everyone but you seems to have mastered. But yoga isn’t about how you look or what you wear, it’s a mind-bodypractice meant to help you connect to the world around you. And don’t worry if that sounds too “out there” for you, regardless of your level. Yoga can be done by anyone and produce amazing benefits for your physical and mental health.
Where does yoga come from?
Originally from India, yoga is estimated to be at least 5,000 years old and has connections to Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. The word yoga itself comes from the Sanskrit wordYuj, meaning union. A practice means many different things to different people, but at its basic level, yoga is meant to unite your mind, body, and spirit along with your connection to the world around you. People usually associate yoga with physical practice or “asanas” (physical postures). But in Indian yogic tradition, asanas are one part of the eight limbs of yoga. We won’t get into much detail, but the eight limbs are laid out in the historic Yoga Sutras, a set of scriptures written by Patanjali meant to help you live a meaningful life. Other limbs include Pranayama (breath control) and Dhyana (meditation).
Long story short? The rich history of yoga shows us that it takes going beyond the physical practice if you want to attain that mind-body connection and increase your awareness.
What is mindfulness?
An article in Positive Psychology defines mindfulness from the “father” of mindfulness Jon Kabat-Zinn. “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” When you’re mindful you’re non-judgementally observing the thoughts, feelings, and sensations you have.
For example, if you’re doing yoga and find a pose difficult, you wouldn’t say, “I’m just weak and can’t do this. Why am I bad at everything?” You would say something like, “I’m feeling a burning sensation in my legs.” No judgment, simply observation. This can help you stay in the present moment and feel more grounded.
What is mindful yoga?
As we mentioned above, yoga goes beyond just the physical poses. There is an aspect of mindfulness in every kind of yoga practice. For mindful yoga specifically, students use physical poses as a form of mindfulness meditation. As Positive Psychology examples, mindful yoga specifically also uses Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness to achieve self-awareness and compassion (and in this non-stop world, we could all use some of that).
The result? A yoga routine to help you achieve greater mind-body awareness.
Did you know: that mindful yoga is even used as an important tool in, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s popular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to help people suffering from anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and more.
When can I practice mindful yoga?
The best part about mindful yoga is that you can practice it anywhere, at any time! Yoga can be extremely helpful for going to sleep and is also a great way to feel grounded and refreshed in the morning.
Whether you have five minutes or one hour, the benefits of using mindfulness and yoga in your daily life are immense. Here are some benefits.
- Improves physical health including a reduction in pain, releasing stress, and improving sleep quality
- Helps people cope with negative emotions like anxiety and stress while improving positive emotions
- Greater insights into your feelings
- Improved creativity
If you don’t know where to start with mindful yoga, try looking up free classes online to find what makes you feel best.
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