Character-building yoga!

2014May02_Yoga_AHave you ever thought about how exercise might impact your whole intrinsic approach to life? If not, then you could be overlooking the many character-building benefits of practices like yoga! It’s interesting how we often think of exercise as purely about the physical. Whether it’s losing weight or shaping up for better definition, the emphasis is on how we look. Whether it’s about running a marathon or achieving more reps, the accent is on performance and endurance; on what we can achieve physically. There’s nothing wrong with this, after all, it’s why most of us take up exercise. But we shouldn’t forget that once we take up a new fitness program, especially after years of inactivity, it’s going to challenge us mentally as well as physically. Exercise and fitness, yoga especially, becomes a part of who we are.

Yoga has always been a practice that in its essence is holistic in that it is about exercise for the whole person. There is an essentially integrative ingredient in how yoga poses are performed that goes beyond the purely physical. In fact, you could go so far as to say that yoga can not only be good for the body and the mind, but even perhaps inspire positive behavior. In other words, yoga can help nurture certain values:

  • Respect – The etiquette of yoga practice allows each person to work at their own pace and improve their own abilities, rather than exercise under pressure. This instills an inherent attitude of respect, for yourself and for others. Yoga is the practice of respectfulness.

  • Self-awareness – Yoga focuses on how your body works and how each movement is an expression of the interrelation of your ¬†physical being and mind. In this respect, yoga is about creating a strong mind-body connection. The deeper understanding of your inner self that springs from this creates greater self-awareness.

  • Confidence – The wonderful flexibility-inducing stretching that yoga practice involves makes your whole body feel longer and leaner. You will walk tall and not just because you feel limber but also because yoga supports a sense of inner acceptance that can really boost confidence levels. It’s difficult to leave a yoga practice feeling anything but full of good feelings. And of course the positive physical results you see only boost your feel-good feelings even further.

  • Empathy – The lack of competitive edge in yoga creates an environment where you have space to grow individually but also where you see your fellow yogis as part of a community; a community of which you are a member. This sense of camaraderie brings about a feeling of synergy, acceptance of others, and ultimately of empathy and understanding of other people’s needs.

  • Patience – Yoga isn’t about rushing to reach a set goal or cutting corners to get somewhere faster. The journey is actually part of the process and the focus on proper form over cardio action puts the reins on impatience. Focusing on exercise in the present moment also serves to promote a more centered attitude.

  • Discipline – Continuing on from patience is the benefit that comes from repetition of movements in yoga. By applying yourself and seeing how you can progress systematically, you can really appreciate the value of effort and discipline.

  • Balance – Body and mind; strength and flexibility; yoga is inherently about balance and this sense of creating stability and taking time to make sure you are operating on an even keel transfers through to life and how you live it too. Yoga is not about excess or deprivation but well-roundedness.

  • Expression – Feeling the flow of movement and experiencing how your body stretches and bends can sometimes make yoga seem like an elaborate dance. The deliberation and precision are not confining but in fact create poses that allow you to really express yourself through your physical being. Yoga is a form of self-expression and not about bottling up who you are, but being who you are fully.

Looking for exercise that has meaning far beyond the physical? Adopt yoga into your healthy lifestyle.


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