Yoga means union. In a world that bombards us with clichés regarding a mind, body, and spirit connection, this is very important. But, in real people terms, what is the connection between the poses (asanas), breathing (pranayama), philosophy, and Western psychology? David Frawley, author of Yoga and Ayurveda writes:
Yogic methods cover the entire field of our existence – from the physical, sensory, emotional, mental, and spiritual to the highest Self-realization. It includes all methods of higher evolution in humanity – physical postures, ethical postures, breath control, sensory methods, affirmations and visualizations, prayer and mantra, and complex meditative disciplines. Yoga understands the nature and interrelationships of the physical, subtle and formless universes into the boundless infinite beyond time and space, and shows us how these also exist within each human individual.”
But, even more basic than that, “Why Does Yoga Help?”
Here are some key reasons why yoga works:
1. Yoga reduces stress by triggering the Relaxation Response.
This is achieved through conscious breathing, practicing poses, learning relaxation techniques, and meditation. The antidote to the Stress Response is the Relaxation Response, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system. More importantly, yoga teaches us how to remain peaceful in the face of discomfort and challenge. We learn from yoga the art of relaxation.
2. Yoga makes us pay attention.
We become more self-aware physically, mentally and emotionally. This begins by paying attention to our breath (and all its habits), along with the cycle of our thoughts and where we hold tension in our bodies.
3. Yoga is a healing practice.
The poses, conscious breathing and visualization serve as a therapy to reduce physical pain as well as emotional anxiety. We learn practical methods of self-comfort. And through active effort, we advance our practice into one of self-love and self-acceptance.
4. Yoga breaks our bad habits.
We unlearn patterns of being in our bodies that are hurting us. This teaches us discipline and commitment to our own health. Letting go of the bad habits allows us to see the possibilities for an improved quality of life more clearly.
5. Yoga reminds us to be responsible.
It teaches us to move from blame to a mature place of responsibility. First, we become responsible for our physical bodies: where we put our hands in downward facing dog, or how to keep our knee above our ankle in Warrior II. Next, we observe our thoughts and begin to take responsibility for our inner dialogue. Eventually, we accept authorship of our own lives in a co-creative expression of designing our best life.
Yoga’s Effects On the Body
The following is only a partial list of yoga’s benefits: