In 2014, the United Nations (UN) announced 21 June as the International Day of Yoga, recognising the profound impact that Yoga has on transforming the health and wellbeing of people from all walks of life.
Even though different types of meditation have been practiced for over 5,000 years, and by many cultures including the Buddhists of Tibet, the Aryans, the Hindus of India, and even Ancient Egypt, the popularity and practice of Yoga has been rising quickly in the last 10 years.
The health benefits of yoga are widely known, and include improving the health of the physical body (such as strength, flexibility, digestion, organ, spine, and joint health). It also improves the health of an individual’s mental and emotional aspects, such as improving concentration, sleep, and stress relief, whilst also transforming negative thoughts and emotions into positive action.
But there are 10 intangible benefits of yoga that are less commonly known, which yogis reap after many years of practice and with the help of a spiritual mentor or teacher. With the International Day of Yoga now here, this is an excellent time to highlight these benefits.
Shama Kaur, a Kundalini Yoga Teacher and Aquarian Teacher Trainee in Cairo, told Daily News Egypt about 10 things people do not know about the benefits of yoga.
- Conscious Choices
The practice of yoga raises energy from the lower chakras to the higher chakras. When our heart chakra is open, it creates a passageway that connects “I” with “We”, and this impacts our choices.
Instead of making choices that are driven by the ego’s self-interest and our endless impulses and desires, we are able to pause and ask real questions such as: Is this choice in my highest best interest? Is it in the highest best interest of the community? What would be the harmful consequences of my actions?
Being able to pause and question allows our choices to become aligned with our soul’s purpose which often seeks to serve the needs of the collective/community, rather than focusing on the needs and desires of the ego.
With a regular practice of yoga and a connection to our heart centre, which is commonly known to be the seat of the soul, we are able to transform our fears, worries, sadness, anger, anxiety, stress, and depression into a service.
Instead of drowning in an endless sea of emotions and questioning our existence, we search for ways to serve others. We use the energy of all our negative thoughts and emotions to give us fuel to serve others selflessly – without expecting a reward.
Being in the heart means that we feel more deeply for all living things and that includes plants, animals and humans. This makes us more conscious of how we treat all living things. That is why most yogis naturally become vegetarian and more environmentally friendly.
It is because our hearts are open, filled with an abundance of love and compassion that we are unable to cause harm to any living being. So we search for ways to change our habits for a more sustainable life.
- Sense Control
Our five senses – seeing, smelling, hearing, touching and tasting – often get us in trouble. These senses are expressed and felt in the lower chakras and have a very powerful influence one us. It is through the sense that we experience pleasure.
Without thinking, we follow our senses and our desires for more and more pleasure. We become impulsive, and rather than making choices in alignment with what is in the interest of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being, we hardly choose at all. We, instead, become slaves to our senses.
The practice of Yoga builds our capacity to control our senses. We can say no even when we smell something delicious or see someone really attractive. We are better able to break free from the cycle of being a slave to our senses.
We all want to be happy in life, but most of us are, instead, unhappy even though we have all that we need. This happens because our mind is very clever, and it never stops setting goals and expectations for what we need in order to be happy. We keep falling into the trap of telling ourselves, “I will be happy when I have…”. This only ends in our wanting more or something else when we get what we thought we wanted.
The practice of yoga helps us cultivate an attitude of contentment at all times, even when we do not get what we want. We stop yo-yoing between extreme temporary “happiness” (which is really a fleeting feeling of excitement) and extreme moments of sadness. We learn that we will always experience the ups and downs of life and there is no need to resist. But instead we learn to feel content with all that we get and do not get in life.
The practice of Yoga opens up our higher chakras, one of which is the 7th chakra, located at the crown of the head. This allows us to remember that there is a force much bigger than us at play, the force of the Creator, the causes of causes.
We remember that we do not need to attach to anything in the world, because everything that we have will one day not be our own. We remember to do the best that we can, and in all humility bow our head to the Creator and surrender all our homes and desires. In other words, we do our best and leave the rest for the Creator. That is why it is common to practice “baby pose” in yoga, it teaches us to bow our heads and drop all our worries to our Higher Power.
- Connecting with our Soul
The practice of yoga connects us to our soul. At first, we are occupied with our body, thoughts, emotions, goals, and desires, but after a while we connect with a part of us that is much more significant; our soul. This soul connection becomes our driver in life – we seek to know who are we? Why are we on this planet? How can we use our skills to serve others? And what is our destiny? These questions help us to live a more meaningful and purposeful life.
- Recognising the Other as You
When we recognise our own soul and are able to separate our thoughts, emotions and games of the ego from our real and true self, we stop comparing ourselves to others. We stop competing with others. By contrast, we recognise that all humans carry a soul within, and all humans desire to live a happy and free life. This breaks the wall of separation between me and them, and helps us to cultivate harmonious relationships for the good of all.
When our throat chakra is open, we are better able to express ourselves. But some of us speak their truth in a way that is harsh, rude, or unfriendly. When the practice of yoga opens the heart, throat, and upper chakras, our words are truthful but also calculated. We speak with more consciousness of the intention of our communication and the impact we seek to create. We speak our own truth, without fearing that others may judge who we are. This makes us feel freer and fearless to be who we are anywhere and anytime.
When we have all the above nine gifts, there is nothing left but love in our hearts. Love is a force so powerful that it creates love wherever it goes. It never questions or doubts, it simply loves with no condition. So with regular practice, Yogis tap into their state of Love in their hearts and expand this state to all those around.