Yoga has profound effects of body, mind, and spirit. It moves us, literally and physically, beyond the confines of our self-imposed limitations. It turns and twists us to see different inner and outer landscapes.
With every breath, yoga grounds us in this quirky, inscrutable life experience. The lower half of our body connects with earth or the floor reminding us we’re safe, while the upper half of our body reaches to discover unknown realms within and without.
When done with awareness, yoga is an embodied, moving meditation, offering up new riches with every practice.
Whether through interoception, awareness of internal sensations, or proprioception, awareness of our body in space, yoga encourages us to inhabit our physical form with deeper appreciation.
If gratitude practices are one of the best ways to improve one’s mood, this subtle awareness and appreciation for what the body can do, no matter your age or level of practice, allows more joy.
As someone who has had a daily yoga practice now for over 20 years, I can attest to its power. At 70, I’m not doing Ashtanga or power yoga practices that used to strengthen my resolve and confidence navigating life. Now, while my practice is still strong, it’s different. It affords me the opportunity to notice subtleties I missed with those more intense, faster classes. In its own way, yoga is helping me navigate my third age.
Whatever your age, whether you’re the most flexible little four-year-old, or a stiffening elder, yoga is a beautiful way to discover the irrefutable connection between body, mind, and spirit.
No matter the challenges I’ve faced, no matter what mood I brought to the mat, I have benefited from every single yoga pose I have ever done. That may sound a bit extreme, but even stirring soup at the stove in tree pose brought me an extra minute of joy. Yoga doesn’t always have to be a formal practice, it may mean sneaking in a pose here and there.
As yoga is always grounding, especially if you’re standing on one leg, it’s similarly connecting you to the reality of here and now. Since almost all yoga involves some level of balancing, it naturally creates mindfulness. It’s almost impossible, if not dangerous, to do a yoga practice without awareness. When we practice mindfulness, we allow the mind to reset. This subtle internal recalibration open us up to thinking and feeling differently about even the most basic daily challenges. When we wash the dishes with mindfulness what used to be a chore becomes an opportunity for gratitude. Gratitude for food we ate off dishes we own. Gratitude for the water, gratitude for the sink, the kitchen, the ability to stand at the sink. We can coax our often unconscious habit of taking things for granted into appreciation for what we have.
Many yoga poses are based on ancient yogis watching animals move and rest. Whether we know that or not, cat, cow, camel, crane, and other poses connect us to nature. This is not an intellectual connection, but a visceral one.
Each time we unroll our mat and practice we consciously or unconsciously align with life. When we take our practice off the mat, we connect with others from a cellular knowledge that we are they and they are us. Understanding that creates more peace. Yoga is not just some solipsistic body sculpting activity, it’s a way to come home to ourselves and our connection with everything on earth. Just imagine what this world would be like if we could do that.
Yoga poses are just one portion of the eight limbs of yoga. The entire practice is a call to live an authentic, kind life. Here is a succinct description of the other seven: https://liforme.com/blogs/blog/8-limbs-yoga-explained.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang