Stressed Out and In Pain
When I started the practice of yoga about ten years ago, it was to relieve the pain of my chiropractic adjustments. I figured if my muscles weren’t so tight, my adjustments would be easier, more effective, and last longer. So I found a beginner’s yoga DVD, bought a matt, and started on a journey that would uncover many more benefits than I ever imagined.
I loaded the DVD and pressed play. After thirty minutes of seated twists, deep stretches, down face dogs, child’s poses, and planks, I was ready for the cool down. Lying on my matt, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, I just started to cry—really hard. It felt like a huge release—one of those really deep cries that starts from the gut. I wasn’t certain why I was crying, but whatever the reason, that energy obviously needed to get out. Afterward, I was amazed at how I felt. Not only was I a little more flexible, I felt refreshed, brighter, and less burdened. Yoga was the catalyst that provided this transcendent clearing. That was the day I knew there was something special about yoga and its healing properties. That was the day I got hooked on yoga.
Our bodies reflect what our minds believe and think. Science has proven this over and over, but we will know this is true for ourselves if we just stop for a moment and make the connections. If we take a closer look at what we believe about ourselves and the world, and the thoughts that arise from those beliefs, we can understand why so many of us are stressed out, unwell, achy, and inflexible. As an example, you might think you have to be perfect in some way to be considered valuable or worthy. This particular belief brings us lots of personal stress and unhappiness. It creates stiffness and rigidity in our lives since things have to be this way and only this way in order to be perfect. The thing is, this isn’t even the truth. The mind’s idea of perfection is completely different than the heart’s. Where the heart knows we are already good enough just the way we are and the judgment of perfection is simply not needed, the mind’s idea of perfection is distorted, chaotic, and tied to a belief of inferiority and, therefore, doesn’t apply to anyone or anything. So when we believe in perfection we unnecessarily suffer in many ways, emotionally and physically. Are you inflexible? Your beliefs will be mirrored by your body.
Another example might be that you believe people have to dress a certain way or you will label them as weird and consider them less valuable than you. Such beliefs only serve to create destructive energy between you and others. They also separate us from others which continues the incorrect belief that we are alone or lonely. Additionally, these beliefs cause us more pain than they cause anyone else since rigid, judgmental thinking is painful to our hearts and out of alignment with our true connection with all life on the planet. Energetic dissonance, with the potential to show itself in the physical body, occurs each time our beliefs and thoughts don’t match the truth and love in our hearts. The fact is, none of these beliefs are truths. They are, however, painful and inflexible. Do you see the connection now?
The stress we create through our beliefs and thoughts plays havoc with our endocrine/hormonal system and suppresses our immune system, among other things. On top of that, most of us spend the majority of our lives in sedentary positions, as our joints become less pliable and our muscles become more pliable. Hips, knees, and ankles need coaching to get moving once we stand. It feels like work. And forget about running. That’s something we used to do. But it doesn’t have to be like this. We can change the way we feel, reduce our stress, touch our toes once again, and even improve our health.
The Magic of Yoga
After my big release, I started researching the effects of yoga. What I found was nothing short of amazing. Yoga is ancient. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj meaning unite. In yoga, it is the individual self that unites with divine consciousness. The ancient Hindu text, the Upanishads, contained complete descriptions of yoga, its principles, and techniques. These were written between the fourth and eighth centuries. Yoga is ancient, indeed, and quite magical, too.
The more I researched yoga, the more I learned about the healing properties of yoga. There are so many ways yoga helps the body heal and provides an avenue to a better life in general that it is impossible to list them all here. However, we can sum up the overall benefits into seven major categories and provide a short list for you[i].
- Internal benefits: Reduces blood pressure, increases circulation, increases pain tolerance, reduces inflammation in the body, and increases metabolism,
- External benefits: Improves posture, helps detox the body reducing signs of aging, improves core and overall strength, improves balance, provides us with more energy and helps reduce weight,
- Emotional benefits: Improves mood, reduces stress and anxiety, can release the energy associated with depression, improves self-control, self-acceptance, and the mind-body connection,
- Body chemistry: Lowers cholesterol, boosts the immune system, regulates hormone secretion, increases red blood cell counts
- Exercise benefits: Low risk of injury, taps into the parasympathetic nervous system bringing peace and calm to the body, improves muscle tone
- Disease prevention: Helps reduce the potential for heart disease, osteoporosis, and Type II diabetes, and
- Symptom reduction: Reduces back pain, improves menopausal symptoms, relieves constipation, helps with arthritis and has healing properties in cancer.
As we review the list above, we might see an area, or two, or three, that applies to us and could therefore possibly be helped through the magical healing properties of the practice of yoga. The only way to know is to give it a whirl. Yoga classes can be found most everywhere today, but there is always the internet or DVDs. Make certain to check with your physician prior to starting any exercise routine.
There are many different kinds of yoga practice, such as Hatha yoga or Ashtanga. I practice Vinyasa yoga, so-called because of its continuous flow. Here, as with all yoga, the breath is a major part of each pose. My favorites are the classes by Kate Potter called Namaste Yoga due to Kate’s soothing voice, constant movement and continual support for correct poses. However, there are loads of others to choose from and the class you find will be the one for you. You can’t get it wrong. Experience more than one type to find your favorite.
I have felt the healing powers of yoga in my own life in many ways. I find it peaceful, soothing, strengthening, and releasing. Certainly, the ancient yogis knew the importance of such practice for the mind, body, and spirit. But it seems even science today is proving the benefits of practicing yoga well beyond just increasing flexibility. The healing properties of the practice of yoga are numerous, as we can see. Why not try it today? Let yoga help you wherever you need it the most.
[i] Meredith Walker, 77 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga, NursingDegree.net, http://www.nursingdegree.net/blog/24/77-surprising-health-benefits-of-yoga/.