It’s no secret that diet and exercise are important when it comes to our health and wellbeing.
Daily movement of some kind, whether it’s walking, swimming, or going to the gym is encouraged by society as a way to stay fit and healthy. As is, of course, eating foods that are fresh, whole, and nutritious.
From an early age we are encouraged to eat well and exercise physically, but what about making the time every day for an internally focused practice to stretch, strengthen, and nourish our hearts and minds?
We yogis are so lucky, because we get to focus on our whole selves whenever we practice (which happens whether we realize it or not).
Of course, the postures are helping us to build both strength and flexibility, and promote healthy movement of our muscles, joints, and bodily systems, but it’s the internal benefits that are perhaps the most powerful and make you feel amazing.
Setting a positive intention at the start of your practice is like planting a delicious little seed of goodness on the inside and then helping it manifest with your conscious movement and breath.
Your intention can change every time you practice, though a really powerful way of nourishing your inner world is to create a Sankalpa, which is a personal resolve, kinda like an intention that you work with over a longer period of time.
As well as the obvious physical benefits, an asana practice can be a chance to graciously accept your body as it is on the day you practice. Which can of course be different every time you step on the mat.
You might have a condition that means certain poses are always going to be really challenging (or not actually suitable). You might be pregnant, going through menopause, or you might be injured, which means you need to change or modify the way you practice. And not being able to do what we want can be frustrating right?
Oh but when you let go of that frustration (which we know can make us feel shitty) and instead accept whatever abilities and limitations you have that day, you get to really anchor yourself in the present moment and fill your inner cup through self awareness, self respect, and acceptance.
Asana offers you that beautiful gift.
The word mudra translates as gesture, or attitude. On a basic level, I like to think of mudras as gestures that can help cultivate a specific attitude, so they are a practical way of creating a more positive space within and around you.
The breath is life. Literally.
We know it provides the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide that keep our physical bodies going, but on a more subtle physiological level the breath carries Prana (also known as Chi, Ki, or Qi), the energy that sustains every living thing.
When this vital life force is flowing in a balanced way it has a positive impact on everything, including our emotions and thoughts. In most eastern healing modalities it’s blockages in our life force that are considered the primary cause of disharmony or disease (dis-ease).
Specific yoga breathing techniques (Pranayama) are designed to influence the pranic system, but even just having an awareness of your breath can make a difference. Focusing on keeping a calm and even breath as you move in and out of postures will, over time, help you feel lighter on the inside and way more connected.
The repetition of certain Sanskrit words or phrases can actually alter the vibration of the environment within and around you. How cool is that?!
Stress, anxiety, and unhappiness all come from the mind, so if you’re cut from the frazzled cloth, it’s super beneficial to make time for internally focused practices. And Meditation is like the ultimate multivitamin for your inner world!
It helps you practice being instead of doing, it teaches you to be less reactive and more observant, and best of all, it encourages the mind to rest and be still. And that, my yogi friends, is a golden ticket towards feeling awesome because when the mind is still, it creates space for a more patient, relaxed, loving, and insightful you.
For me personally, taking care of my heart and mind is the main reason why I roll out my mat day after day. Of course I love the physical benefits, but it’s the quietness within my mind and the fullness within my heart that keeps me coming back to my mat time and again.