A Healthy Mind and Body With Yoga
By: Rasheeda Billups
There aren’t many people who proclaim to be at the pinnacle of a healthy life. Even those of us who drink water religiously, workout, and avoid sugar, can probably agree, we could be a little healthier. That’s because health and wellness isn't just about eating clean and going for a run; it’s about being intentional in our decisions concerning every aspect of our lives, including mind, body, and spirit. Making an effort to live a healthy life shines light on the foods and products we consume, our environments, and relationships.
What is yoga?
A healthy life is a balanced life. Yoga is defined as the union of mind, body, and spirit. The Yoga in America survey by Yoga Journal shows that 8.7% of Americans are practicing yoga, that’s a total of 20.4 million Americans, a 15.8 million increase since 2004. Yoga has increased in popularity due to its many benefits. Here are a few benefits of yoga:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased strength
- Improved circulation
- Improved body awareness
- Weight Loss
- Improved posture
- Improved mood
- Improved balance
- Improved focus
- Improved sleep
How can yoga benefit my mind and body?
You may be wondering how yoga could possibly deliver on so many benefits. Partly because yoga is a lot more than what some people attribute. A huge misconception is that yoga is only sequences of stretches. Yoga is more than that. It goes beyond a good stretch for some. Patanjali outlines eight limbs that serve as a guide for living a better life through yoga. Among the eight steps, there is a focus on meditation, breathing, and principles promoting nonviolence, awareness and more.
- Yamas – rules for living right (e.g. truthfulness)
- Niyama – recommended habits (e.g. cleanliness)
- Asanas – physical movements and postures of yoga (e.g. downward facing dog)
- Pranayama – proper breathing
- Pratyahara – control of your senses
- Dharana – focus
- Dhyana – calmness of the mind
- Samadhi – complete union
Whether you subscribe to the totality of yoga or not, you’ll benefit from more than just increased flexibility.
How is mental health related to physical health?
Anything in this world first started in someone’s mind. This is true about everything from someone’s goal to amass wealth to Garrett Morgan’s invention of the gas mask. Anything you wish to manifest, ranging from an awesome day, to better relationships, begins with the thought of what you desire. A clear head has been attributed with helping many of us perform better on exams, make better decisions, and get through tough predicaments. That’s why so many people, including life coaches, teachers, and parents turn to tools like affirmations and meditation to build mindfulness and awareness. The cultivation of a strong mind through meditation affects how we feel physically. According to Psychology Today, studies show definitive benefits of meditation including but not limited to:
- Increased immune function
- Decreased pain
- Decreased anxiety, depression, and stress
- Decreased feeling of loneliness
- Improved ability to introspect
- Improved ability to be creative and think outside the box
How can I incorporate yoga and mediation into my life?
Incorporating yoga into your life doesn’t demand hours carved out of your day or the ability to pop into a handstand at the drop of a dime. Start where you are, which may be as simple as five minutes of mindful movement on your own, following a guided video, or attending a yoga class near you. Before you get started, know that yoga is for everyone and everyone’s practice may look different. If you decide to practice at home, create an environment that will encourage you to practice. Or take the time to visit local yoga studios and find one that fits your needs.
Beginning with as little as one minute of meditation per day can help build a daily practice. The key is to be consistent and to increase the length of time gradually as you become more comfortable. As you get started, here are a few things you can do to help create an experience you will enjoy.
- Find a quiet space where you will have minimal interruptions.
- Make it yours by adding lighting, aromas, and colors to create a space that will encourage you to meditate. You can dim the lights or use candles to create an ambiance. Use scented candles like Meditate Candle by Blue Sage Eco Boutique which has a rosemary, lavender, sage scent profile.
- Add a mat, floor pillows, or even a chair for comfortable seating.
Adding yoga to your daily wellness routine will help improve your overall health. Here’s what my daily routine looks like:
- Drink warm lemon water to help kickstart the digestive system
- 5 Sun salutations to warm up the body
- Mediate for 10 minutes to prepare for the day
- Drink tea to help relax and calm the body (a calming blend like Serene Herbal Organic Tea by Golden Flourish)
- 30 - 60 minute yoga flow usually focused on stretching the hips, shoulder and/or back after a long day of work
- Meditate for 10 minutes
How will you incorporate yoga into your daily routine?
Remember every yoga journey is unique to the individual. Make your yoga journey your own.