Exploring the Energetic Benefits of Yoga

by in Energy, Exercise, Healing, Mental Health and Well-being, Other January 18, 2021

Most people who aren’t familiar with yoga see it as a way to increase flexibility, improve balance, or to de-stress from the constant overstimulation of modern life. They may even be familiar with some of the poses, or ‘asanas’, but did you know that a yoga practice’s primary goal is concentrated on energetic benefits derived from breathing and meditation? Yoga is in essence a mind-body practice that combines physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation. In fact, the physical practice and poses are designed to tire the body in preparation for deep meditation and spiritual awakening. Many are surprised to learn that yoga is considered the sister science of ayurveda, the world’s oldest medical system that has its roots in India. Today, modern medicine and research studies consider yoga as one of the many types of complementary and integrative medicine approaches for treating a range of illness and conditions. Since prevention is better than cure, and living your best life is always in style, read on to see why yoga’s benefits extend far beyond the physical realm and actually shift your energy field in positive ways.

Breaking it down to the basics, as a physical practice, yoga is proven to be a major tool to help urbanites and nine-to-fivers destress. But unlike your run-of-the-mill HIIT workouts or power lifting which actually increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol, yoga actually reduces blood pressure, heart rate and other markers of stress. A study by the Ilam University of Medical Studies followed 52 women who started to practice yoga, for just over a month. The conclusion showed that depression, anxiety, and stress decreased significantly in all participants after just twelve sessions of hatha yoga practice. So even if you’re skipping the savasana or better known ‘corpse pose’ at the end of class, you’re still reaping major rewards in terms of lowering stress and staying out of that fight or flight inflammatory state other workouts keep you in. Since chronic inflammation over time is the root cause of disease, you definitely don’t want to be hanging out in that space for too long. Beyond disease and inflammatory markers, living with stress leaves you physically, energetically and mentally drained. We know that when we are stressed, we aren’t fully present or in touch with our true selves which makes it difficult to send out positive vibes and connect with others.

Related to the benefits of a more zen mind space, yoga can also touch your life in a way that has an effect on your relationships with others – whether the people around you are your spouse, kids, parents, friends, or simply strangers. When you feel more at peace and in the moment, when you’re in tune with everyone around you and sensitive to their needs, you begin to interact with people in a much more positive and compassionate way. Yoga teaches self-awareness and thus gives you confidence and the tools to be more open to communicating your own thoughts, needs, and suggestions. Your compassionate self will see you strengthening current relationships, but also attracting new friends and acquaintances. Yoga helps you stop and smell the flowers rather than comment on the cracked sidewalk, and everyone wants to be around that person. When we are positive and conscientious, we send out a different frequency, or vibrate on another level. Tuning up your energies is just a few sun salutations away.

When we aren’t in balance, our energy and vitality take a hit. Yoga can teach us a thing or two about balance, literally! If you’ve ever taken a yoga class or even seen some posts on social media from one, chances are you’ve seen some pretty interesting balancing poses. Balancing asanas are an essential part of a well-rounded yoga practice for a reason. They are used to train the human ‘monkey mind’ to keep focused and stay in the moment. Training the mind to stay in the present moment is the ultimate goal and key to happiness as prescribed by yoga, and that ability soon spills over into all other areas of your life. After a yoga class, you’ll notice you are a kinder and more supportive friend. You’ll find yourself listening more than you speak, and perceiving more than you judge. Above all, you will find yourself moving from a place of reaction to passive observation. You’ll also find yourself doing better in your daily to do lists and tasks as you hone your focus on the present moment and what’s in front of you. Practical and energy balancing!

As mentioned in previous posts, our food choices have an energetic impact on us in either a positive or negative way. Regular yoga practice and learning body awareness leads to making better food choices and has even been proven to control episodes of binge eating. Studies show how even after one session of yoga, you’ll experience lowers levels of cortisol and increased levels of serotonin, the happiness hormone in the body. As you’ve probably experienced during exam times, moving house or when your personal life is in chaos, when cortisol goes up, so does the likelihood to binge eat. When you practice yoga, you become more in tune with what your body really needs, and less likely to be swept away by cravings to fill a void. As you become aware and appreciative of your body, you’ll be less likely to reach for easy fast food with zero nutritional value and empty calories. As you find yoga calms your nervous system, you’ll also experience a tandem decrease in the strength of cravings and even how you experience cravings overall. You’ll soon feel a need roll out your mat rather than wander to the fridge to work out any emotional or physical kinks.

In its physical form, the poses and sequences of yoga are designed to stimulate the lymphatic system. Twists in particular are known to temporarily restrict blood flow to certain organs by compressing that side of the body, and then releasing and flooding those organs with fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients. The foundation of vinyasa yoga, sun salutations, are famed for their ability to flush toxins out from the body, and revitalize your cells. Yogis know to drink plenty of water before and after their practice to ensure that those toxins that start moving get pushed all the way out of your body via elimination and sweat glands. Speaking of elimination, twists also stimulate your digestive tract, and make elimination easier which is helpful in removing any stagnant energy and that uncomfortable feeling that often goes along with constipation. It’s hard to feel light and buoyant if you have toxic waste backed up in your colon for days at a time. Some routines can be quite high energy, and it’s recommended to shower soon after your practice to send toxins on their way down the drain.

If you’re still not totally convinced of the energetic importance of yoga to the average woman or man, let me introduce you to the concept of Nadis. Similar to ancient Chinese medicine, in traditional Indian medicine and spiritual knowledge, Nadis are the thousands of energy or ‘Prana’ channels running through our body. Our chakras are nerve centers where many of our energy channels intertwine like a central train station. Each chakra represents a certain energetic need and blockages can be cause by as varied reasons as lack of communication, relationship and love imbalances, and poor habits. Simply practicing yoga, in all its forms is said to help unblock certain chakras and get the subtle energies flowing again in a balanced way. For example, someone complaining of hip pain- yoga dictates that we hold a lot of stuck, unearthed emotions in the hips-would be prescribed hip opening sequences to help release pent up emotions. Yin yoga in particular is famed for evoking strong emotions in students from hysterical laughing to crying and everything in between. Holding these releasing postures for long periods of time is certainly a therapeutic way to clear energy channels that have been suppressed for far too long.

Practicing yoga certainly is a mind-body journey whether you expect it to be or not. It has this habit of drawing you inside yourself, holding up a mirror and asking you to explore. It creates space in the body and most importantly in the mind. It’s a moving meditation but also invites you to take a seat of stillness. Whatever your motivations for trying yoga, your relationship to life will be positively changed and your outlook positively charged every day you roll out your mat. Namaste!

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