While the fashion of yoga continues to evolve, its staying power rolls on.
With Western medicine touting the benefits of yoga’s stress management techniques, and inherent ability to slow the aging process and increase quality of life, many mid-lifers and their elders are on the mats regularly.
But 20-somethings and their proteges stand to gain a lot of wisdom from this Eastern tradition of self-realization—wisdom they can gain long before the hindsight of injury, disease and hair loss dons on them.
1. Overcome Electronic Overload.
Texting, web surfing, gaming, blogging, streaming and sitting put a lot of repetitive wear-and-tear on our spine, wrists, fingers and eyes. Practicing yoga not only gives us the experience of being aligned in our body, but also enhances our self-awareness. When we are squinting, hunched over our keyboard taking shallow breath after shallow breath, a moment may come where we realize we need to sit up straight and breathe deeper. Taking a break from the sedentary routine of being on the computer will help undo much of the mindless misalignment we do while checking our Facebook page.
2. Undo Old Athletic Habits.
Many people who grew up playing sports were taught stretching and exercise routines that are harmful to the body in the long-term. Yoga is a holistic physical practice, meaning the exercises are meant to warm, stretch and strengthen each layer of the body (bones, ligaments and joints, muscles, mind) in a complementary fashion. Many times, athletes are coached to value winning, competition and physical pain which often results in long term injury or overuse. In fact, yoga can rehabilitate most of the effects of an old injury through its dynamic movements and focus on undoing physical and mental barriers.
3. Learn to Actually Love Our Body.
There is no “yoga body.” The physical practice enhances the individual frame and composition, so there’s no protype to be achieved on the physical level. Yoga teaches from a place of non-injury, and values self-study as a way to prevent damage and pain. Shifting the mindset of punishing ourself into better health is not part of yoga’s philosophy. There is nothing to win in yoga, even though the benefits of the practice feel like a reward. So, whether we are lean, lanky, have more to love, are boney or curvy, yoga will enhance our unique body composition with strength and flexibility.
4. Lengthen Our Short Fuse.
It is the simple truths that tend to remain timeless and yoga has a few to offer us. Somehow, by learning and repeatedly practicing a slightly stressful and physically challenging pose teaches us how to endure and manage stress in our day-to-day challenges. While the poses may not get any easier, we become stronger and better able to handle ourselves when the difficulty ensues. Breath control gives us a gateway into relaxation, which helps us keep a cool head when the heat starts to build.
5. Kill That Diet.
Yoga has a unique way of working every muscle, bone, joint and organ. When the body burns fuel like that, it becomes obvious that the fuel we put into it will either enhance or diminish our life on the mat. If we are practicing regularly and at a level that is both physically challenging and appropriate, the idea of fueling ourself with empty calories will lose its appeal. Almost unconsciously, we may witness ourself reaching for some water when we would typically reach for a soda.
6. Be Okay Being Alone and Still Feel Happy.
Well beyond the physical strength, stamina and prowess we’ll gain from a regular yoga practice, is the mental fortitude that comes with it. Because no one else can hold our leg up in that 3-limbed balance pose, and since no one else can force us to breath deeply when all of those muscles are firing to keep us steady in that 10-breath plank pose, yoga teaches us how to be strong by ourself. The final moments of relaxation at the end of every practice were earned by no one else! By challenging ourself on the mat and still finding peace, we learn to experience that in life’s more monotonous moments, too.
7. Discover New Limits.
A regular yoga practice lends itself to a lot of self-knowledge. As a first time student once told me after she had finished class, “It made me aware of all these parts of my body I don’t use enough, and the ones I use too much.” Not only does our cardiovascular endurance transform once we begin to breathe more completely, so does our attitude. Yoga teaches to accept our current limits and move beyond them. This discovery can happen in the physical practice, where we explore how to come into a handstand or backbend, and in the mental practice, where we discover how it is to maintain our composure in gridlock traffic.
8. Prevent Bills.
Aging is an expensive, inconvenient and generally overwhelming reality. Most of us between the ages of 18 and 35 are not greatly concerned with the plethora of diseases and injuries that may plague us as we grow old. Conditions like high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, anxiety and gastrointestinal disease can all be curbed with a regular yoga practice. Yoga’s benefits are many, and scientific evidence is beginning to support this. An enriched yoga practice will not only give our entire body a low-impact, strength and flexibility enhanced workout, it can also increase our lung capacity, enhance your mood and attention, as well as increase our resiliency to stress and other conditions that prey on a depleted immune system.
9. Use Less Uppers.
Energy drinks, soda, coffee, tea, uppers and supplements can become addictive and controlling. The human body has everything it needs to slow down or ramp up its processing speed. Through yoga, our metabolism and mental clarity are returned to homeostasis so that synthetic energy enhancers are unnecessary. Yoga’s focus on the breath teaches us how to calm down, slow our thinking, wake up and even reach heightened states of mental clarity just by breathing!
10. Use Less Downers.
Alcohol, sleep aids, drugs and prescriptions can become addictive and leave us with a mental hangover. When the human body is getting the right balance of nutrition, exercise and stress release, calming down becomes simple and low maintenance. Yoga teaches how to manage stress, anxiety, anger and fear so that outside supplements are unnecessary. Think of the financial savings we’d have by not needing these extras to feel good, have a good time or fall asleep.
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Editorial Assistant: Sarvasmarana Ma Nithya / Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant archives