The Benefits of Yoga

The benefits of yoga have been well documented. Yoga offers you a way to find awareness of your body and its metaphors.

This article’s purpose is for you to find healing of your body-mind-soul through learning the technique of what I call 'creating space' through the practice of yoga poses and yoga stretches.

'The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.' ~B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga: The Path To Holistic Health

Your body is a metaphor for the issues in your life – issues that are manifested in your body through chronically tense muscles as a result of held stress and the holding in of strong emotions.

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Hurting knees or hip flexors (iliopsoas muscles) may represent inflexibility in your life, since knees and hips flex and bend. By learning the benefits of Yoga you can learn to release this tension in your hips and legs to find total body-mind-soul health.

Powerful muscles of the buttocks and muscles deep in the hip like the piriformis may represent control or power in your life or the loss of control or power.

Feet and ankles may represent stepping out or stepping forward or getting you toes wet or nowhere to step.

Pushing forward too hard is a recurrent theme in leg and hip issues. It is a metaphor for pushing forward too hard in your life. It may also represent a fear of moving forward.

The back may represent support and burdens, because it is the back that supports us. Shoulders and arms carry weight and burdens. They also 'lift,' 'hold,' 'carry,' 'embrace' and many more metaphors. Hands 'handle' things and 'touch' things. Please see Healing Through the Power of Touch to better understand the body metaphor of touch.

This is just a brief summary of the many possible metaphors of the body. If you haven't read the Body Window and Developing Intuition pages, I explain this phenomenon in greater detail. My foam rolling pages have in depth details of each muscle area and its concomitant body metaphors.

It's All in the Release

It is through the releasing of chronic muscular tension that the benefits of Yoga become apparent. Meditate on your own truth for your sore areas and why you hold stress and tension in specific muscles.

You can learn a lot about yourself and find where your true issues lie if you learn to listen when your sore muscles are speaking to your through your Body Window. By doing Yoga you learn to release the stress, release the control, release the fighting and find peace in your soul. You learn more about why you hold stress in certain areas of your body rather than others. Experiencing the full benefits of yoga is much more than merely practicing a physical exercise.

If you haven’t figured out yet from this website that I love yoga, you will when you get finished reading this piece. Yoga stretches my body and yoga stretches my mind. It is a complete body-mind-soul healing process through the power of stretching. The benefits of yoga through stretching and holding poses will bring peace and healing to your body-mind-soul as well. If you need a place to start your own Yoga practice, go to the articles below.

It Matters Not, the Origins of Yoga

Do not be afraid to give yoga a try even if you feel it has some mystical eastern origin. Yoga may be a religion unto itself for a lot of folks, but it doesn’t have to be for you. You can keep it true for you and keep it true to your faith.

You do not have to be an Eastern follower to practice yoga and get its health benefits. If you are Christian or Muslim or of any other religious tradition, meditate on what is important to you and your faith as you do the yoga stretches and yoga poses!

As always, make yoga your practice and make it your meditation! If the body is alive with spirituality, and I know it is, then make it the spirituality of your choice!

No matter what type of faith you practice, you can enjoy the amazing benefits of yoga for body-mind-soul healing!

For me personally, I return to Yoga poses almost on a daily basis. I warm up to Surya Namaskar or the Sun Salutation. This is a classic yoga sequence. The meditative practice of yoga and its ability to speak to me through my Body Window is the reason.

For me, yoga IS meditation. You too, can learn to develop intuition by using your body. Begin by doing a body scan and reflect on the meaning of each sore area as you work to stretch, body roll or do foam rolling of that particular area. This is how to reap the full benefits of yoga.

Adjust and Personalize Yoga for YOU!

If yoga seems too daunting for you, just know that you don’t have to look like a pro, be stick-thin or amazingly flexible to enjoy the yoga's benefits!

You can do modified versions of all the yoga poses, like the Dancer's Pose below, and still reap huge changes in yourself!

Yoga Dancer’s Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicDancer's Pose
Yoga Modified Dancer’s Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoModified Dancer's Pose

You can replace the Warrior II Pose with this modification:

Yoga, Warrior II Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoWarrior II Pose
Yoga, Modified Warrior II Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoModified Warrior II Pose

In fact there are even chair yoga poses that you can do. You may want to look into a supportive Yoga practice such as Iyengar Yoga. Practitioners of Iyengar Yoga focus on symmetry and alignment, using props, yoga straps, blankets, yoga blocks and chairs to achieve the postures. It is a very gentle yoga approach that stresses understanding your body and how it works.

You just start slowly and at your own pace, make it meditative and b-r-e-a-t-h-e. Go only as far as you can go. Each day as you practice you will find that over time, you will be able to go just a little farther! The benefits of yoga can be enjoyed by all at all levels of practice.

Just look at me, a 50-something who dared to put herself out there on the web! I am anything but svelte, gorgeous or model-like. I would never make it on the cover of Yoga Journal.

It took many deep breaths and a brave stance to place myself out there for all to see. I do it so that YOU may benefit, regardless of your weight, your flexibility or your age!

I have my hang ups just as you do. You will never see me in a pair of shorts on this website. I never thought there would come a day when I would have to worry about cellulite on the front of my legs!

I place my warrior poses on-line with trepidation, because despite taking many camera angles, even in the best shots I still feel like I look like a chubby little soldier!

Come to Peace with Your Body as a Manifestation of Your Soul and Age Gracefully!

What I have accomplished, is I have come to peace with the beauty of my body and love it as a manifestation of my soul. Yoga has helped me learn to love my body. Please do the Body Blessing Prayer, if you need to get yourself in the proper frame of reference to love your body and begin to change your perception of it. It is never too late to start healing in your life!

Aging gracefully is staying aware of your hang-ups about your body, and the cultural brain-washing and still learning to love your body as it is.

If you stay aware and stay present in your love for yourself, you CAN overcome society’s love of youth, beauty and the perfect body. Let’s face it – we will NEVER be completely satisfied with the way we look, and the way we age. It just won’t happen! You might as well be happy with yourself and your body. It will bring you peace and healing – I promise! Your body-mind-soul will thrive in your self-love.

As you learn this self-love, your entire body can begin a more encompassing healing process. It will grow like fire, for healing in your life. Finding the benefits of yoga can help you fan this fire!

Keep Yoga Yours for Life-Long Improvements

Yoga seems to have more styles than flavors of ice cream. As yoga becomes more and more popular, many different ideas have been developed on how best to practice it. As always, I throw away any dogma and make it my own practice. I don’t care about the origins of yoga.

I don't care who created a specific style of yoga or the Sanskrit names of the yoga poses. I don't care what the name of the hottest new yoga studio is. I make yoga an intuitive practice, an intuitive movement for me and me alone.

I prefer to call yoga ‘strengthening stretches.’ Nothing strengthens the body like yoga. All you men out there, if you think yoga is for wimps, think again. Try the Plank Pose and the Four-limbed Staff Pose. Hold each pose for a minute!

Yoga Plank Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoPlank Pose
Four-limbed Staff Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoFour-limbed Staff Pose

How about the Side Plank Pose? Hold this one for a minute!

Side Plank Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoSide Plank Pose

For even harder poses try the Crane Pose or the Peacock Pose for upper body strength, in addition to the many handstand poses. Regardless of which poses you can do, you can still enjoy the benefits of yoga in your body.

Nothing keeps you young like Yoga. Inertia in your body brings about weakness, immobility and disease. Yoga can prevent this or slow down the process so you can enjoy life to its fullest for as long as possible. These are the benefits of yoga.

For lower body strengthening and balance, try the Warrior III and the Half Moon Poses below:

Yoga Warrior III Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoWarrior III Pose
Yoga Half Moon Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoHalf Moon Pose

For even harder poses try the Chair Pose and the Revolved Fierce Pose:

Yoga Chair Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoChair Pose
Yoga Revolved Fierce Pose, Xpuha Beach, Playa del Carmen, MexicoRevolved Fierce Pose

I believe that Yoga poses strengthen the body for the activities of daily life better than just weight lifting. Unless you only want to achieve muscle mass, you gain so much more than strength and balance with yoga.

Weight lifting shortens the muscles, where yoga poses lengthen and elongate the muscles while at the same time strengthening them. This improves range-of-motion and flexibility for daily activities.

Not only will yoga poses increase your strength but it will increase your flexibility and joint mobility as well. Nothing will keep you from suffering from the degenerative effects of aging like yoga stretches. The benefits of yoga are gained when you care for your body in a mindful, body-mind-soul fashion.

Benefits of Yoga, in Summary:

  • Increases strength.
  • Increases joint mobility for better movements (range-of-motion) for the activities of life.
  • Increases flexibility to prevent injury when using the body for the activities of life.
  • Required balance to perform the exercises automatically builds core strength without doing endless crunches!
  • Helps you re-balance your body, by identifying which side of your body is tighter and weaker. When you work on gaining balance in your body, you also re-balance your life.
  • Increases circulation, thereby providing more oxygenation to the organs and tissues for health and healing
  • Massages all organs and tissues to promote circulation for health, as above
  • Promotes relaxation and calm by deepening your breaths and lowering your blood pressure
  • Perfect avenue for the Body Window to speak to you to identify where your held issues lie – your personal body-mind-soul-issues
  • Provides avenue for body meditation or ‘praying with the body’
  • Provides a way to learn meditative techniques through the focus on the breath
  • Gives you an avenue to understand your body metaphors
  • Promotes body-mind-soul healing through the relaxation and elongation of muscles and tissues
  • Your entire body, mind and soul feel better, almost immediately when practicing yoga. This overall feeling of well-being occurs each and every time you practice!
  • Offers you a way to love yourself and your body, your mind and your soul!

Are the above benefits of yoga enough for you? Are they enough for you to begin your own practice?

You can create space in your body through yoga poses, by the opening and stretching of your body and therefore, your mind. Holding these stretches will help you go inward and intuitively use your body to hear the messages it brings to you through your body window. The simple practice of holding postures for a long time to learn and develop this intuition just may be one of the best benefits of yoga.

Keep Yoga Meditative

The simple practice of focusing on the breath makes yoga meditative. As you focus on the breath, you focus on the body. You feel the relaxation, feel the stilling of the mind and you turn your focus inward.

Because the body needs to relax first, to put it in a meditative state is why yoga is so beneficial. The benefits of yoga are to relax you and it will help you go inward. Yoga is body meditation. Yoga helps you discover the spirituality of your body.

If you start with seated yoga poses, you will find it may be an easier place to begin. You don’t need to worry about balance and support. The earth supports you instead. The Universe is waiting to support you in your seated yoga stretches and postures.

Sitting yoga poses on the ground/floor are very beneficial because the postures we use from sitting on a chair train our muscles to contract and shorten. This causes us pain and tension, instead of extending, lengthening and stretching us. With the shortening (chronic contraction) of the hip muscles from sitting for long periods of time comes back pain and hip pain, from muscles like the iliopsoas, of piriformis, and others.

It is only from the benefits of yoga and of foam rolling that you can reverse the problems of chronic muscle tension in the hips and back due to the chronic muscle shortening from sitting.

Pigeon Pose on Pranang Beach, Railey, ThailandPigeon Pose on Pranang Beach, Railey, Thailand

Where Do You Start?

If you are a yoga newbie, see my articles on beginners yoga, and my additional yoga tips for everyone. They will help you get started with best practices. I think it is wonderful to start learning yoga at home. Developing your own home practice is very important, where you can experiment in the privacy of your own home.

I also offer an article on wall yoga, a wonderful way to feel totally supported by the wall as you do your poses, to help you learn proper alignment.

Please also see my Yin Yoga articles if you are drawn to an even more inward looking and contemplative practice using the longer-held, joint and tendon releasing poses.

I believe that where there is a will there is a way, so if you really want to learn it on your own, you can. It just doesn’t matter if you do it perfectly or not. I have been to many yoga classes where no individual instruction was given. Unless you can afford private lessons or yoga certification classes, most likely you will not get individual attention anyway.

I would also recommend that you invest in a yoga strap, a block or two, and learn how to use them. So many yoga studios bypass the power of using props to help you learn a pose. See my articles on how to use a yoga strap, yoga blocks and yoga bolsters. It will enrich your practice immensely and help you perfect your pose.

Choose a moderately-priced yoga mat, not the cheapest one. They are not worth the money. Click here to see a great selection.

Keep on trying to do the yoga poses to the best of your ability. As you get better, stronger, and get more flexible, you will improve. With even the smallest movements you will soon experience the benefits of yoga. The elderly, doing wheelchair yoga show dramatic improvements.

Do not start out with any revolved yoga poses, as they are much harder. Stick to the easier ones. If you study the body positions on the videos and on-line, and teach your right-brain and make the yoga posture an intuitive process, you will not hurt yourself.

You must, however, be intuitive and be smart and listen to your body! DO NOT push through any pain of more than a slight discomfort. You do not want to overstretch and tear tendons or muscles! Progress slowly! You do not want a yoga injury! If you have unrealistic goals and hurt yourself, you will give it up and think you can’t do it. You will regress to a world of inertia and pain!

Rule Out Structural Issues for Pain

If you have any chronic neuromuscular issues like a bad back, have had surgery on your neck or spine, have sciatica, pinched nerves or other issues, please get an evaluation by your doctor before you proceed, to ensure that you do not have any structural problems with your body.

Always remember that pain is the message from your body that tells you that something is not OK! Never, ever push through anything more than mild pain. Intuitive movement does not push through pain.

Most of us understand the concept of intuitive eating, i.e., eating only what you are hungry for and only when you are hungry. Intuitive movement is doing only that movement which brings you mild discomfort, not pain.

(There is one exception here, if you have chronic pain, called Tension Myositis Syndrome, where pain turns to fear that leads to more pain that leads to a downward spiral. The only way to break out of this syndrome is through ignoring the pain. But this is a different topic, altogether!)

Through the meditative benefits of yoga you can learn to still your mind and stay present in the freedom of the movement. You focus on your body. You breathe in and elongate, breathe out and go a little farther into the stretch. You release your tension. You breathe again and go a little farther. You focus on the movement. You feel inner peace and strength. These are the benefits of Yoga.

Key Summary Points for a Body-Mind-Soul Yoga Practice:

  • Make it meditative
  • Make it intuitive movement
  • Take it slowly
  • Do it in reverence for your body
  • Do it to love yourself
  • Do it to age gracefully
  • Do it to remain functional and independent
  • Do it to maximize your fullness for your activities of daily life

May your personal practice of yoga poses and yoga stretches lead you to experience the full benefits of yoga! May you always strive for the journey to healing and health of your body, mind and soul!

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