Yoga's bonus benefits
Beyond the mat and into your mind
The increased awareness that comes from yoga creates inner qualities to manage life’s challenges with greater ease, and builds a strong sense of self that creates the feeling that all you need to handle life in a positive, constructive way is within you.
The wonderful truth is, we are in control of our experience of happiness through our own efforts, and the ancient philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle believed the same! Happiness can be distinguished as either a momentary feeling of happiness, such as the temporary exhilaration of a one-off experience, or through the true, deep state of happiness experienced as a more long-lasting, deep-seated well of energy.
Happiness requires conscious effort and active participation as well as being the witness to the happiness that exists within. Happiness is multidimensional and multi-dependent on a variety of factors incorporating psychological, physiological, spiritual, emotional or psychosocial factors
An attitude of gratitude
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies identified that yogis who practised at least twice a week had a greater sense of meaning as well as gratitude. This was further supported by a 2013 research paper identifying that 86.5 per cent of practitioners had an increase in their sense of happiness when they regularly practised yoga.
Neuroplasticity and yoga
Modern science has confirmed that the brain constantly aims to rewire itself to create new neural pathways. This rewiring continues to happen every time we choose to perceive an experience more positively, when we evaluate our experiences from a place of learning and growth versus blocks. Yoga postures naturally generate a continuous, repetitive stimulus every time we challenge ourselves to move beyond what we once thought impossible. This gives us a sense of achievement and encourages the process of self-enquiry – the discovery of what is possible beyond our self-limiting beliefs systems.The brain therefore develops new neural pathways, resulting in the capacity to think, contemplate, understand and react in more positive ways, therefore experiencing greater and longer-lasting happiness.
Neurocardiology – the heart has its own consciousness
Yoga traditions honour the heart as the seat of individual consciousness and the foundation point for all of life and are considered to be the bridge connecting the mind and the body. However, Western science believes that it is in fact the brain that controls all bodily functions, which is interesting considering the heart beats within the unborn fetus before the brain hemispheres have even formed. This is partly because the heart has its own separate nervous system containing around fifty thousand nerve cells and communicates our feelings and emotions to the brain through hormones, neurotransmitters and electromagnetic fields. Science recognises that the heart has an intelligence of its own, suggesting it is the heart that is the primary source of our emotional existence. Maybe then if we learnt to follow our heart a little more, we would make conscious choices that lead to a greater experience of happiness.
Breathe the stress away
Research has shown that pranayama practices support the way in which the body manages stress at a biochemical level. This is partly because some pranayama practice relaxes the nervous system, subsequently inducing a sense of peace that ultimately becomes your natural state when practised consistently.
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