It's widely accepted that yoga promotes relaxation, increased flexibility, and improved health. But, did you know that practicing yoga can radically improve your relationship to your body?
Here are 6 ways that yoga improves your relationship to your body:
1. Asana allows you to reconnect to your body.
When you practice asana, the physical yoga postures, you are connecting to your body through movement and breath. It is through the physical yoga practice that we are able to isolate different areas of our bodies, understand how they move and function, and better comprehend how the different areas of the body collaborate.
Anyone who has struggled with negative body image has surely spent time ignoring and disconnecting from the parts of his or her body that bring up feelings of shame and disgust. Yoga pulls us back from this spiraling neglect.
In order to make your way into each yoga posture you have to tune into your body and how it prefers to move. Yoga requires you to listen to your body, something we spend so much time avoiding.
2. Ujjayi breath promotes ease, peace of mind, and improved digestion.
Ujjayi breath is a particular yogic style of breath, or pranayama, that builds heat in the body while simultaneously promoting rest and heightened digestion. This style of breath is deep and powerful.
Though it builds heat in the body by firing up the lungs and the throat, the focus of the style of breath is actually relaxation. With ujjayi breath, we are working to lengthen the inhale and the exhale creating a long, smooth breath. This lengthening of the breath is a powerful tool for promoting relaxation in the body.
Ujjayi breath also stimulates the vagus nerve by breathing with a slight constriction in the back of the throat. This constriction allows the breath to massage the vagus nerve, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system - aka rest and digest.
Simply by practicing ujjayi breath, we are sending signals to our brain that it is time for our body to relax and prepare for rest or digestion. (Source)
3. Mantras demonstrate the power of positive thought.
Traditionally, mantras are words or phrases that aid in meditation. Mantras can be in English or Sanskrit. There are mantras to help us through challenges, others to show gratitude, and others to honor our teachers.
The practice of repeating mantras teaches us the power of positive thinking. As we repeat these mantras the more we believe them to be true, and the more we believe them to be true the truer they become.
We’re not just limited to traditional yogic mantras either. We can create our own mantras that resonate with us to our core and allow us to think and see more positively. Simply by repeating mantras that hold meaning in our hearts, we bring them to life. Through mantra, we are able to create positivity.
4. Taking time for asana, meditation, breath, and other yogic practices are an act of self-appreciation.
Oftentimes we talk about asana, meditation, breath work, and other yogic practices as a form of self-care. It is true that they are forms of self-care, but we rarely recognize self-care practices as acts of self-appreciation, which they are.
Creating time in your day for activities that invite ease, relaxation, and joy into your life not only nourish your body, but are moments of appreciation. As you flow through your physical yoga practice, know that your practice is a thank you to your body for all that it allows you to do.
As your practice meditation or breath work, recognize these practices as time to appreciate your body right where it is in the present moment.
5. Svadhyaya, the practice of self-study, pushes you to recognize how you talk to yourself.
All day, every day you are in constant communication with your mind and body. Unfortunately, much of what we say to ourselves is negative and judgmental, things that we would never say to another person. It can be easy to slip into a cycle of negative thoughts, and challenging to dig yourself back out.
Svadhyaya, self-study, makes us more aware of the ways in which we talk to ourselves. It also makes us more mindful about discovering approaches to limit the negative self-talk.
By taking the time to pause and look inward, we begin to learn a lot about ourselves. We learn our thought patterns and what triggers them. We discover all that truly matters to us and we understand better the things that really tick us off.
Challenge yourself to objectively recognize your negative thoughts and begin to question them. What if you’re not actually a failure? What if you actually can do it? What if you’re not fat, but healthy in your womanly body? What if you have the amazing opportunity to design our own positive thoughts? What would life be like then?
6. Yoga fosters communities of love to support you through your body love challenges.
Yoga classes, online platforms, magazines, and retreats bring together many like-minded people interested in many of the same things. This is not only fun, but powerful. Lots of people are drawn to yoga because it allows them to find release and relaxation in their body, while slowly becoming more comfortable in their own skin.
Nearly everyone in any given yoga class wants to learn to love their bodies, or wants to maintain their loving relationship with their bodies. Yoga classes are one of the few places in the world where everyone, all at the same time, is thinking about their connectedness to their bodies.
Be bold and introduce yourself to someone in your next yoga class. Ask them what brought them to yoga and then share with them what brings you to yoga. Maybe pick a time to go to a class together. Perhaps grab some post-yoga tea.
And maybe, if you’re ready to be really bold, ask them to join your Body Love Tribe and support you on your body love journey. Conversely, offer your support to them. Create your personal Body Love Community.