What makes Yoga different from other forms of exercise? Well, it’s not just an exercise; it is a mind-body practice. Studies have pointed to yoga as an effective tool to reconfigure the mind. It can increase positivity, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve overall mood and sense of well being.
Yoga frees your body, improving your General Physical Preparedness (GPP) and physical health and fitness. But more importantly, it frees your mind from the burdens of stress, negative self-talk, and all of the triggers that tempt you to reach for a temporary source of satisfaction. Let’s understand how.
Yoga treats a whole person
You cannot cultivate a sense of wholeness and well-being if your mind is holding you back. It doesn’t matter the weight on your frame or the calories burned on the mat. If you don’t feel good about yourself and your life, if you’re under constant stress, if you can’t stop replaying negative thoughts, you aren’t going to be as effective and/or consistent with your life. The big one we want to bring to the stage here is stress.
Yoga helps you understand stress
When you’re stressed, your body produces excess cortisol. Cortisol is a major player in your physiology. When it’s elevated, it can create hormonal imbalances, cause depression, shut down your digestion, and restrict your breathing. All of this feeds stress more and stress complicates weight loss efforts.
You cannot underestimate the damage that stress does to you. When you’re locked into a state of high stress (sympathetic overload), you’re going to gravitate toward something that satiates or subdues your nervous energy. Yogic techniques that promote relaxation (mild inversions, diaphragmatic breath work, etc.) can help to keep your cortisol levels in check, so you can better regulate your response to stress, and better control your dietary and lifestyle choices.
It’s the science of awareness
Yoga redirects or tunes out negative thoughts and heighten mindfulness. This can be very useful in real life: the ability to take inventory of what’s going on and to just sit with it, without reaction. Especially, when something stressful comes up. Yoga teaches you to pause, to notice and to self-reflect. This distancing act gives you the space to make better decisions for yourself.
Plus, when you become more connected to your body, you’ll be more aware of how your body feels in all of your daily activities. This self-awareness can cause a shift in the way you move and fuel your body. If you’re someone that struggles with weight, you might end up self-medicating by choosing foods that temporarily spike your dopamine (happy hormone).
The Road Ahead
At times, starting with Yoga can be challenging. The physical sensations, emotions and thoughts that arise during practice can be uncomfortable. But by navigating the practice with a thoughtful teacher, you’ll learn to experience what’s going on with you without judgement and reaction. You’ll learn to take compassionate inventory of what is present and to just sit with it.