by Carl Massy.
I encourage (strongly) that all of my coaching clients include a yoga class or few into their weekly health and well-being regime. When I wrote The Guidebook to Optimum Health, I came to the conclusion that the most complete ‘physical activity’ for overall optimum health & vitality was yoga.
Yoga goes way beyond physiological benefits and ticks off all of the boxes when it comes to health: physical, mental, and emotional.
The reason is because it is one of the oldest practiced sciences when it comes to happiness, well-being and reaching our full human potential. We are talking 1000’s of years to figure out what works and what doesn’t!
I started practicing yoga in 1999 and it was one of the best choices I ever made. It changed my life for the better.
Let me explain why…
Caveat before we start: Unfortunately a lot of ‘modern’ yoga is about busting out spectacular looking yoga poses so you can create an Instagram worthy picture to wow your Insta-fans. The yoga I am interested in is different. It is consciously practiced, in a specific (scientific) way, with high quality teachers, who understand the science and philosophies of the practice (and practice what they teach).
Reason 1 why Yoga needs to be on your weekly schedule
Hands up if you spend a LOT of time in your head, and if you are truthful, might be a little disconnected with what is happening below your neck line? This definitely was, and still is on occasions, the case for me.
Yoga is designed to bring you greater awareness of your physical body.
Why is this important?
So you can sense the messages that your body sends you…like you need to stop doing what you are doing or your will fall over, or get sick. It is very rare that our body is not sending us a LOT of signals to slow down or stop before we get sick. If we are disconnected from the subtle feelings within our bodies, because we are stuck in our heads and out of touch with our bodies, then we are likely to miss the subtle cues, and only wake up when we get whacked over the head with a major illness or disease.
Yoga will help you hear your body’s wake up call.
Reason 2 why Yoga needs to be on your weekly schedule
Yoga creates deliberate alignment for the body, between the left and right sides, which also means it helps create greater coherence between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
A lot of muscular aches and pains we experience are because our bodies are out of alignment. We use our left side or right side too much and it creates imbalance in our musculature structure. Which leads to discomfort in the body, which I am sure you have all felt. I first started yoga in 1999 as a means of pain management for my neck, which it absolutely positively impacted.
When we align our bodies (through yoga), which increases coherence in the brain, it also has a calming effect on the autonomic nervous system of the body. Meaning it also increases our ability to relax and find more calmness in stressful situations. Also improving the coherence of our heartbeat.
Reason 3 why Yoga needs to be on your weekly schedule
A quality yoga practice will include deliberate breathing exercises (called pranayama) and meditation. If you want to read a comprehensive list on why meditation is SO AWESOME for your well-being, click here to read an article I wrote in September. I know you known this already.
In summary meditation will:
- Increase your mental clarity
- Assist with emotional processing
- Turn on genes that increase your cellular health
- Power up your immune system
- Create coherence within your mind
- Create coherence within your heart
- Cool down your nervous system (and therefore mind)
As I am sure you are aware; oxygen is very beneficial for your well-being, energy levels and your continued existence on planet earth. And since the amount of oxygen we have at our disposal is directly related to the quality and depth of our breathing, then practicing how to breathe more fully, deeply and intentionally, sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
Yoga is really, at its core, the science of breath. Which is another way of saying the science of life.
Research also suggests that breathing in through the nose aids in deactivating the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or fight response). This does not occur if breathing in, through the mouth.
Yoga. Breathing. Increased health.
Reason 4 why Yoga needs to be on your weekly schedule
In The Guidebook to Optimum Health I talk about detoxification being one of the 6 pillars to optimum health. Particularly because of the amount of pollutants and toxins we are exposed to in our modern world, though the air we breathe, to the food we ingest.
The science of yoga is designed in a way that specific postures have different effects on the major organs in the body. Postures are designed to assist in the detoxification of the liver and kidneys. Postures are designed to assist the functional of the stomach and the process of elimination. Studies have also shown that yoga practitioners have a significantly greater blood circulation, than the average person. This means increase oxygen and nutrient to cells, and enhanced elimination of wastes from cells.
Each yoga class, done well, is a chance to detoxify the body at a deeper level than almost all other physical activities.
Each Yoga class is like an internal cleanse.
Reason 5 why Yoga needs to be on your weekly schedule
It makes you feel good.
Unlike many physical activities where you feel good immediately after doing them – due to a hit of endorphins – the feelings you experience after a class of quality yoga, will leave you feeling great for an extended period of time. You are likely to feel great for hours and maybe even days.
And with those elevated emotions comes increased creativity (positive emotions increase creativity) and also the likelihood you will make choices that are better for your well-being. It is about feeling heart-good, as opposed to head-good. Feeling good (or great) at a much deeper level.
Yoga enhances the experience and duration of positive emotions.
How you know it is quality yoga
Here is a list of what I think helps you determine if you are exposed to high quality yoga:
- It is not presented as a ‘work out’
- The teacher also teaches the philosophies of yoga (on and off the mat)
- The class includes specific attention to the breath, breathing techniques and meditation
- The teacher has virtues you admire (vitality, calm, focus, grace, peace)
- The class always includes (at the end) shavasana / corpse pose that lasts several minutes (to allow the autonomic nervous system to realign)
- It’s not about the music (the best classes are actually done in silence so you can be more internally aware)