There are many reasons why people start practicing yoga. Some start for its physical benefits, others to relieve their stress, others out of desperation, and others to know what the fuss is all about. Of those people, some will quit right away. The rest though, by time, will come to realize that yoga is giving them a lot more than what they’ve asked for. Below, I’ve put together just a few of yoga’s long-term benefits, none of which are physical, all of which are a by-product of the physical practice though. Through the flow, through the breath, through the meditative practice, these benefits will eventually surface.
Awareness & mindfulness: Your sense of self-awareness, your relation to others and to the world around you will expand. You will shift your awareness from the outwardly state it’s usually in and bring it within, getting to know yourself better. With awareness, comes mindfulness. You will want to be more mindful and attentive of what you do, how you act, what you say and think, maybe even what you wear or eat. Those two together will keep you grounded, they will take you on a continuous educational journey through the self.
Balance: What I refer to here is not the physical balance, I refer to the balance and peace created within when you work on achieving one of yoga’s main purposes, aligning your thoughts, feelings and actions. By doing so, you have the ultimate key to being at peace with any decision or action you take, precisely because all of you agree on it. Without this balance, we’re ambivalent and always doubtful about our decisions. With it, we’re determined and purposeful with clear intentions within.
Taking control of the mind: When we take control of our breath, we take control of our minds. Here are two ways that this happens: our different states of mind (anxiety, fear, calmness, happiness, etc…) all affect our breath differently. When you learn to take control of your breath, you can change it to bring your mind to the state you want it to be in. The other way is, you can use your breath to meditate. Again, when you learn to control your breathing, you can turn it into your mind’s focal point so that you can declutter the mind and clear it. The practice of Pranayama here comes in very handy, teaching you a variety of breathing techniques each with a different purpose.
Spirituality: Yoga is not a religion, it is a complimentary practice that allows you and pushes you to become a better version of yourself; something that agrees with any religion or spiritual path. Through its many teachings, through its practice, through the different effects it has on you and the mental cleanses it creates, it brings you closer to your beliefs, your principles your connection to the world, and to finding the answers you seek within.
Being unapologetically you: When you reap all the aforementioned benefits, you come closer to not necessarily finding yourself but rather shedding away everything that isn’t actually you. My teacher would tell us that because of the world we’re living in today, we’re like walls that have been painted over and over again. Layer over layer, hiding and shying away from our sense of self. The paint is already chipped, and yoga helps us peel it off by making us more aware, more mindful, aligned and balanced, in control and with a high sense of spirituality. The following quote summarizes this better than I ever could: “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” - Unknown