January 7, 2011

32 Unusual Benefits of Yoga.

We have all heard the obvious benefits: better breathing, better posture, flexibility, better ability to cope with depression…But then there are the other benefits, the unusual ones. Here are my 32:

1. Discipline

Ever since I came into the practice of yoga, specifically Ashtanga yoga, the word “discipline” took on a new meaning, a visceral one. Now I understand very much at a cellular level what it means to have a practice, and I like it.

I find that the daily routine (6 times a week 1.5 hours) has also transcended into other areas of my life, I realize for example, that being present for conversations, or how I pronounce the Sanskrit words as I learn the Yoga Sutras is also a “practice”, a “discipline”. A whole new level of awareness has come into my life through the practice of yoga as a discipline.

2. Better Breathing

My husband used to joke with me when we were dating that I could tell when his breathing patterns changed and he would point out that nobody had ever noticed that before. And I did.  Nowhere has the benefits been more clear than in the way I breathe.

I am now aware of the air intake and outflow pretty much at all times, I notice when it gets shorter or faster and when it gets deep. Just this simple awareness signals me when I need to slow down, take a break, hit the cushion.

3. Effective use of resources

Getting on the mat every day for an hour and a half has taught me to use my energy with care, to ensure it will last for the session.  This manifests in other areas throughout the day, I notice the way in which I am speaking for example.  Am I using too much energy, speaking too loudly, or trying too hard to convince someone of something?

Being fully aware of my limited human energy has made it all more relevant in life when off the mat, and I can also detect quickly where the clogs are, where the obstructions to the flow of energy are, for example: Do I have too many things I do not need? What could I donate? Do I really need to buy this or that? Is it really necessary?

4. Finding my perfect weight

Through yoga I released 30 pounds, and it was not because I was hard on myself or because I was strong or weak or pushy or anything like that, it happened through love.  I have also learned to love my body as it is, even though some old ingrained stories about it not not looking good keep playing in my mind, I have learned to tell them “thanks for sharing”, then hugging my body and telling it is great, just the way it is.

5. I stopped complaining

I find complaining to be the biggest obstacle to life flow, to success.  It is a waste of energy and a leak in the system.  When I was into it, it worked as a great enabler so I could play “victim”, an old beloved role that sometimes wants to perk back on, and must be kept in check.

6. Relationship clarity

Love addiction is a trend very much kept in denial these days, the thrill of the chase, the playing hard to get, the phrases we keep in the collective consciousness as a way to escape and that ultimately do not serve us right in the path of finding meaningful relationships.

Yoga led me to research this topic, and I came to understand that in relationships I was playing a game that was not healthy, I was addicted to intrigue.  I realized that I was more interested in creating drama than in finding what I truly craved, a real solid relationship, based on trust and love.

7. A better tool set to deal with difficult situations

Yoga did not make life easier, but it gave me a better set of choices on how to deal with dramatic events, and to be honest, drama is something I avoid these days.  But life is suffering, that is the first precept the Buddha taught (I am paraphrasing), and he is right, being a yogi does not make anyone excempt from having stuff happening to them.  The difference these days is in how I react, the friends I reach out to for advise before I make quick or rushed decisions, the people I surround myself with, the time I take to reflect, the pause I allow myself.  Nothing is every perfect, things are simply: “what they are”.

8. Freedom

This is a loaded word and it means different things to different people, but to me it means freedom from past conditionings, from not being true to who I am, from not speaking my truth.

As Marianne Williamson says “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measureWe ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually who are we not to be?

Thank you Marianne, this is how I live my life now, who am I not to be?  is that reverse ego or what?!, of course I am here to shine my light, that is why we are all here!

9. Travel and adventure

Through yoga I got a new sense of adventure, travelled to India, Thailand, and other places.  But not just that, I also met new people, realized that there are lots of different cultures, that I really do not know anything, that an open mind is the only way to move around in this world, that stopping without reacting for a second or 26 before doing things is the best strategy.  I noticed that different minds can bring about fresh new ideas, that it is important to remain open, like a child: willing to learn.

10. Cleansing

Yoga has had a profound cleaning effect in me, within the physical plane it is very obvious, I learned to perform neti pot nose cleansings, to do stomach churnings, I can’t wait to have a colonic, and learned purification practices from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika like Tratak, or staring at a candle for eye purification.

But the cleansing has reached also outside of the body, my house is also clean, my closet, the sheets in the bed, my books, my passport, my driver license, my moneys. It is not 100% perfect but it is a work in progress and the aim is for total transparency.

11. A new and vibrant flock

Yoga comes with a community. If one is open to share it just does.  I have made wonderful new friends through it both in real person terms and in the cyber space.  And this new bunch is vibrant, cosmopolitan, international, colorful, delightful.  It likes to talk asana and anatomy, sutras and enemas, life decisions and recipes for mending broken hearts, sweet adventures and practice frustrations.

12. Blogging

I started blogging when my practice became a discipline, and it has been a great way of learning, of putting in writing what I learn which, at least for me, is the best way to learn.

13. A curving of all dramas

Drama has abandoned me for the most part.  Not completely but I find that the deeper I go into yoga and the more I learn about using energy efficiently and to breath better, the less drama there is in my life, or if there is, my reaction to it is not so dramatic.

14. Clarity of mind

It is rare these days that I will give an answer immediately, even if I think I know the answer.  The clarity that yoga has brought me allows me for inquiry, reflection, journal writing, deep thinking.

15. Listening skills

I thought I was a good listener, but I was not. Hey I still work at it every day.   But since the whole yoga process started I have began to look at what people say even when it hurts, to remove me (ego me) from the equation and really think about what was said.  I have began to listen a bit deeper, not perfect, but improving.

16. A pause before reacting

Perhaps 15 above has been instrumental in my stopping for a moment, a brief pause, sometimes almost unnoticed that has gotten me out of so many potential troublesome situations.  Just by not saying something right away, I know I have saved myself a lot of grief.

17. Better wording choices

I believe that the best kept secret in our world is the power of the word. How we phrase things, the way in which we say what we want to say means the difference between a broken relationship and a flourishing one, between a success or a failure, between a gentle continuation or an abrupt stop in a practice.

Words are powerful, they are spells we cast, taking a moment to honor them and chose them with care brings about an abundance of new alternatives.

18. Synchronicity

Synchronicity was there all along, I was just not noticing them.  Since I started practicing and reading authors like Deepak Chopra for example, I began finding answers in the most unusual places.  In the plates of cars, in a giant wheel I saw on the way to the airport as I went to India (which I understood as a turning on the wheel in my life).

19. Embracing Uncertainty

Instead of running away I learned to welcome change, the unknown, the new.  You would think that it was not a far stretch for someone who left her country of origin and came to a whole new paradigm in the United States with no money and no connections. That was a good learning curve for me, but since yoga began taking root in my life the uncertainties kept on coming, and faith kicked in and I learned to be more present for them, to work with them, to allow them space.

20. Incredible teachers

I have been lucky, I met Guruji (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) in Mysore the year before he died. I have been to Thailand and had the opportunity to meet and study under Paul Dallaghan, I study daily with John Cambpell, I asked questions and went to Yoga Sutra lessons with Eddie Stern.  I have also been to British Columbia to the Yasodhara Ashram, to Shambhala Mountain, and so many other wonderful places.  I feel blessed.

21. Gratitude

Gratitude touches everything I do, I wake up saying thank you, I go to bed saying thank you, for having a body, for its functioning, for having food, a roof, shelter, warm food, a bathroom with a bath tub, children around me who keep it real, laughter… the list goes on.

22. Better food choices

Just by being into yoga one has no choice but to get informed about food, it comes with the territory.  I have started to ask myself before I eat, “what is the most nutritious thing I can eat right now“, then I trust what I hear, maybe chocolate lava cake today, might be spinach salad tomorrow.  I still respect my tendencies I do not force things, I just put the intention in eating healthy.  The picture (left) shows raw sushi I made one day last year.

23. Miracles

Yes yoga brought miracles into my life.  Now of course when people think of miracles they think of making magic, but that is not what miracles are for me.  A miracle in my life is a change in perception, seeing today something in a new light, allowing new thoughts in, changing.

It is a miracle that I am writing this post, that negativity is something not allowed in my life these days (although sometimes it might sneak in, I am so human!), that I will refuse to speak badly about anyone, or at least try very hard.

It is a miracle that I will say “God bless” even when a Christian pastor calls yoga “demonic”,  that I will not make complaining small-talk just to fill up elevator space. It is a miracle that I have allowed positive habits to replace old ones, that I have changed! That is a miracle.

24. The ability to relate better

To understand compassion not as a way of trying to make myself more important, but rather as something that makes me as human as every one else.  To really see that the common pulse of humanity and suffering is one I am very much a part of, to throw away my airs of grandiosity, I am not that important an this world needs a lot of things done.

This compassion also extends to me sometimes, and that is nice.

25. Living life dedicating everything to the Divine

Here is a post I recently made with video on it about this, on living life as devotion, letting the results be up to that Higher Power that keeps us alive and reading or writing in this very moment. Just this new habit has helped me to surrender and to trust.

26. Creativity

Yoga helps creativity soar.  For example, this series of 32 unusual things I have been running, where did it come from? The 32 chose me, it got downloaded through me, magic!

27. The power of mantras

Through yoga I learned about mantras, but it is only when I started practicing them that I realized how powerful they are.  I am not very fond of speaking about it, I believe some things need to remain private, and every one should do their own investigation and come to the practice, when ready.

28. Scriptures

I have began to learn new ideas directly from the scriptures, going deeper into the philosophy behind yoga.  I am currently studying the Yoga Sutras, and the chanting, the Sanskrit, the message of Patanjali (the writter of the Yoga Sutras) is taking me deeper, making me understand yoga further.

As an example, at first Patanjali says that yoga is the “cessation of the fluctuations of the mind“… BUT, then he realizes that this is way too advanced for someone like me!  So in chapter two, he says that one can achieve yoga by doing three things 1) Accepting all pains that come our ways as a means of purification (tapas), 2) studying scriptures and 3)Dedicating everything to the Divine and surrendering.  Yeah, maybe I can do that!

29. A sense of awe and curiosity

Curiosity has been awaken, I am ever so interested in the journey in how the universe unfolds and rearranges to teach me, to nurture me.  When we trust, everything is supporting us and our creativity, our work, our lives.

30. Meditation

Through yoga I got acquainted with meditation, with the silence, with the witness within. I am a fan of the Vipassana meditation technique, here are 15 reasons why.

31. Peace

I have found peace, not all the time, not every moment, but at a deeper level I am fundamentally a much more peaceful person since yoga came into my life.   Still human, just more chilled and making better choices.

32. I went down the rabbit hole

Every serious student of yoga will find this happening to her or him, it just does.  Suddenly we are in a world of wonder, where life is still very real and we are very grounded in reality, but a new dimension has opened up where the possibilities seem endless, where we reconnect with looking at the sky at night and seeing so many stars and realizing how big the Universe is, how small we are, yet how powerful.  We are blessed.

If you liked this article you may want to see the 32 Unusual Ways to Love Ourselves and the Yoga Guide to Finding the Man or Woman of your Dreams.  Here is also the 32 Unusual Ways to Improve Concentration.

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