Yoga Benefits Emotional and Mental Flexibility
Bask in the Fullness of an All-Inclusive Practice
Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape. ~Anonymous
Most people have heard that yoga is good for their body. Experiencing the techniques of the higher state of yoga also empowers and expands mental and emotional health. Practitioners often develop a deeper level of patience and compassion for self and others and greater creativity. Yoga brings the student to these experiences by addressing and integrating the whole person–body, mind, emotion and spirit.
Yoga techniques include postures, breathing, concentration, meditation, mantra and mudra. Postures build flexibility by enhancing mental focus, compassionate discipline and clarity. When performed appropriately, postures also have the capacity to soothe the nervous system and support digestion, encouraging practitioners to be open to a greater integration of life’s experiences. The wisdom of yoga teaches students that to cope healthfully with life’s day-to-day ups and downs, in a way that honors each experience, does not impede personal joy or creativity, but rather empowers them.
Breathing practices, called pranayama, cause greater oxygenation and detoxification of the blood, brain and tissues of the body. Pranayama nourishes the parasympathetic function of the nervous system, which governs our ability to relax and feel okay. This is an important key to greater mental and emotional flexibility.
B.K.S. Iyengar, founder and developer of Iyengar yoga, which teaches how the eight aspects of ashtanga yoga are integrated, stated, “Yoga is a light which once lit will never dim. The better you practice, the brighter the flame.” To feel healthier and more vibrant is a commonly shared desire. When students learn to regulate their breath to minimize reaction and favor healthier responses, they become more open to feeling a fuller range of emotions with less attachment and less judgement. They become brighter.
Om Swami, a mystic, nontraditional monk, shares, “Any thought that gives you peace is a positive thought. The more you fill your mind with positive thoughts, the better your state of mind will be. And that naturally results in better physical health.”
Denying unpleasant feelings, thoughts and emotions only strengthens them and reduces mental and emotional flexibility. Honoring and addressing our emotions empowers the potential of resolving them. The breath carries them through to the light of our inner alchemy, where they are transformed, then integrated, as having taught us something about our self and the potential of our humanity.
Mudra, or gestures typically done with the hands, direct the subtle energy of the body and mind supporting spiritual activation of our inner wisdom and compassion. The practice of mudra allows the individual to witness and realize a more boundless nature in their own being.
Mantra, the chanting of sacred sounds and phrases, shifts the mind’s focus toward a bigger, more inclusive, peaceful and purposeful experience of life. Singing is good for the soul. Yoga master Sri Dharma says, “Most adults don’t sing anymore. We have to break that and start singing the name of the Almighty One. We have to elevate our emotions to the maximum, to the limit, and that then turns into spiritual bliss.” Not dependent on cultural or religious upbringing, mantra is simply a personal affirmation of what we hold closest to our hearts, and a celebration of shared virtues like unity and love.
Body, mind, emotion and spirit become more resilient and brilliant due to practice. The state of yoga is the complete empowerment of the individual. This all-inclusive practice allows us to see things as they are, accept what is, release distraction, serve the greater good in self and others, reduce and potentially end suffering, all while elevating happiness and embracing peace.
Sudha , Ph.D., is a yoga therapist and teacher, reverend and co-founder of the Kula Kamala Foundation and Yoga Ashram, located at 17 Basket Rd., in Alsace, PA. For more information, call 484-509-5073, email Study@KulaKamalaFoundation.org or visit KulaKamalaFoundation.org.
The Mysterious Mind and Its Control by Swami , at Tinyurl.com/Mysterious-Mind
The Wellness Sense: A Practical Guide to your Physical and Emotional Health Based on Ayurvedic and Yogic Wisdom by Om Swami
Survival Preparedness: Spiritual Focus, Mental Flexibility, and Physical Necessities by Singh, at Tinyurl.com/-Singh