Spiritual Benefits of Yoga
When people are discussing the benefits of yoga, they typically focus on things like increased strength and flexibility, better breathing, greater self-confidence and so forth. But yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that has its roots in the Vedic traditions of yoga, and some people say that one of the most valuable benefits of yoga is its ability to cultivate one’s spiritual development in various ways. While traditional yogic texts focus on some very esoteric benefits of yoga that come from years of intense practice, there are plenty of benefits of yoga that are available to more casual practitioners, or even people who are just starting out on their yoga journey.
One of the most obvious benefits of yoga is its ability to create a state of deep awareness, sometimes called mindfulness. Yoga challenges us to be completely present in our body. During a yoga session, you focus on your breathing, the positioning of your limbs, the tightness or looseness of your muscles, and so forth. Though this appears most powerfully during the yoga session itself, yoga teachers lead you through poses at the end of a session, which are designed to bring these benefits of yoga out of the state of the yoga class and into your everyday consciousness.
Acceptance and Surrender
Mindfulness isn’t all sunshine and roses. Maybe your body won’t bend or stretch the way you want it to. Maybe it’s not as strong, at this point in your practice, as you were hoping, or maybe you’re unable to assume poses in this session that were a breeze in your last one. Maybe your teacher is asking you to assume and hold a particularly challenging or intense pose.
One of the most powerful benefits of yoga mindfulness is the ability to accept your body’s current limitations, and to endure through a state of mild discomfort. The goal of yoga isn’t assuming the most impressive asana, or becoming the most enlightened person in the room. Rather, it’s to exist fully in the moment — whether the moment is a pleasant, nourishing shavasana pose, or the intense, challenging stretch of the King Pigeon asana.
Yoga isn’t going to bring you to a point of complete serenity in just one session. It’s a discipline, and the benefits of yoga accrue over time. But even after your first yoga class, you’re likely to feel a greater sense of serenity. As you enter into the rhythm of yoga poses, your breathing deepens and becomes more regular. Your body releases endorphins as you challenge it, bringing you to a mental state where you’re open to contentment, or even pleasure. As you continue in your yoga practice, you’re more likely to experience these benefits of yoga — and you’re more likely to be able to carry them into your everyday consciousness.
Some of these benefits of yoga might appear after your first session. Others might take longer to manifest. If they don’t come at first, keep practicing! Many people report that the spiritual benefits of yoga are some of the most powerful and life-altering ones — more so than a trimmer waistline, or a more toned body. Keep breathing deeply, and keep on coming back to the eternal present. Namaste!