Enjoying a peaceful and balanced life is no small feat in this fast-paced society where many health decisions must be made on the fly. Some days you feel great and physical effort through Yoga or some other form of exercise, though difficult, is well within your capacity. These days, regular stressors and triggers have no effect on your high spirits.
Other days, however, it seems we are at the mercy of the elements. Something simple like a bad night’s sleep, an inconsiderate remark or late cup of coffee can cause the rest of the day to be an uphill struggle both physically and mentally.
Imagine how the global populace would react if the medical community finally produced the cure-all pill that can increase resistance to the small mental and physical challenges experienced in modern life, as well as the really big problems like heart disease and cancer.
What if some of the other guaranteed health benefits of this “Medicine-X” included:
- Better sleep habits
- Reduction of headaches
- Promotion of self- healing.
- Removes negative blocks from the mind and toxins from the body
- Enhances sexual performance
- Increases self-awareness
- Sharpens attention, focus, and concentration
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Activates the parasympathetic nervous response that counters stress and balances chemical balance
Indubitably such a cure-all solution to modern health would fetch a high price on any market. Who wouldn’t shell out hundreds if not thousands of dollars for the high quality of life such a health supplement would provide.
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Of course, such a treatment has been available all along. Ask any medical professional and they will tell you the same thing, “the best path to good health lies in healthy living.” This is not a new concept, but one that has been fully explored since the dawn of civilization.
Health and Wellness through Yoga and Exercise
No one fully understands it and even fewer appreciate it, but the links between mental and physical health have been established by modern medicine. Yoga is an important part of a larger tradition of healthy living through interfacing with and balancing the mind and body.1
According to the traditions of yoga, humans exist in three states of being: the physical, mental, and spiritual. As the three planes are aligned, better health can be achieved. While getting regular exercise is important to physical health and can even be a boost to mental health, no other routine has been designed and purposed for maintaining this balance like Yoga has.
The word “yoga” is a cognate of the English word “yoke” and comes from an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “to hitch” as in connecting an ox to a plow. This is a good analogy of how the practice of yoga works to bring the mind, body, and spirit, like a team mighty oxen, under the awareness and control of the individual.
Ultimately, the practice is applied to achieve greater peace in mind and body. Through the continued cultivation of this inner peace, the body is naturally inclined to be healthier. The so-called benefits of yoga are simply the natural responses of a body kept maintained in this healthy peaceful state.
While the practice of yoga may appear to be nothing more than a series of stretching and breathing exercises, this deceptive simplicity is based on profound concepts of balancing and manipulating life energies. Once energy levels are balanced and flow are properly aligned, the body is stronger, excess weight is easily shed, skin and hair exude healthy allure and even the mind is at rest and confident.
From the perspective of the yogi, health is much more than not getting sick. It is the sum of your love, joy, and enthusiasm for life. Naturally, this is diminished to a certain degree when sick, but even a positive, joyful, and loving mind can strengthen the sick body and hasten recovery. Yoga applies the holistic approach to health, and by addressing the most basic activities of the body such as breathing and positive awareness, overall health can be improved.2
Often, the most common reasons people begin their fitness program is to drop a couple extra pounds. Sun Salutations and Kapalbhati pranayama can be very effective in releasing unnecessary weight. The hardest part of weight loss is often related to the mental aspect. Through the practice of yoga, the mind is reintroduced to the body and made intimately aware of its needs and conditions. This provides the base for choosing healthy diets and adopting new lifestyles that keep the weight off.3
A large portion of mental and physical health conditions typically seen in today’s societies can be directly linked to undue levels of stress. Stress modulates the body’s energy transactions to allow for great feats of endurance and quick thinking. This is accomplished by altering the chemical composition of the blood. Yoga enables the body to engage its parasympathetic response that allows chemical levels to be restored. Stress management is an essential part of a healthy foundation from which physical and mental efforts can be constructed.4
Optimal Immune Function
The mind-body-spirit connection is perfectly exemplified in the way undue stress and mental fatigue can sap the physical body of its capacity to defend itself against sickness. Scientific studies have proven that a stressed-out mind aggravates inflammation to chronic levels while stunting the activities of immune cells that fight infection, essentially contributing to a homeostatic tilt. Yoga works to prevent this through the regular massaging and manipulation of organs and muscle tissues and their many blood vessels. In addition to relaxation through focused breathing, the stretching and twisting motions wring the muscles and organs free of cortisol and other chemicals and toxins, while increasing the oxygen levels as well.5
Mental and Spiritual Health
A mind is a powerful tool and sensory receptor that can become pre-occupied with sorting out problems of the future while still focused on the important lessons of the past. If not optimized and properly maintained, the mind can spend a lot of time in the past and present and never be fully aware of the present moment. Simple awareness of this tendency is often enough to begin a healthy routine of bringing the awareness to the present moment. This is the first step in cultivating an awareness that can detect the slightest subtleties of the moment, even the ethereal whispers and elements of the spiritual realm that exists all around and inside us.
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