Yoga is a tremendously ancient art, used for centuries not only to strengthen and improve the body, but also to help the soul.
Our modern understanding of yoga is very far removed from the all-encompassing philosophy that is the basis of yogic practice. Our reduction of the art says a lot about the modern mindset.
Traditional yoga is about much more than just improving your physique; it’s a transformative and transcendent practice that aims to aid people in their spiritual journey and heal their souls.
The increasingly superficial nature of the world and Western dualist philosophy, which asserts (inaccurately) that mind, body, and soul are separate entities have, however, ensures that much modern yoga is merely a means of looking good.
However, now scientific evidence supports that yoga if used correctly, can be just as good for your mind and soul as it is for the body.
How Yoga Can Benefit Your State of Mind and Soul
1. Yoga Eases Stress
Yoga is a fantastic way of tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for putting the body into a ‘rest and digest’ cycle, during which energy and resources are sent to help out with ‘housekeeping’ like digestion.
This is the opposite to the ‘fight or flight’ system, which activates when we experience stress and diverts resources away from things like digestion to the muscles instead.
With constant, low-level stress, the ‘fight or flight’ system dominates. Therefore, ‘housekeeping’ functions suffer. Mental function also suffers, as the psyche uses ‘rest and digest’ time to process experiences and generally clear itself out.
By using correct pranayama breathing techniques, and many traditional yoga exercises, one can slow the heart rate, calm the body, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system – giving your soul some much-needed rest!
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2. Yoga Helps To Heal Addiction
Many addicts turn to their substance of choice to artificially gain the parasympathetic effects described above.
They are unsatisfied with the state of their minds and souls and try to gain satisfaction through drugs and/or alcohol.
Of course, this kind of method will never bring the deep and lasting transformation which is needed in such cases. In fact, it will only make things worse.
Yoga can be fantastic for recovering addicts as it gives them the sensations of calm and control that they’ve been subconsciously craving.
Yoga’s powers of transformation can help addicts to heal the rift in their souls, which they were trying to fill with substances. Its relaxing effects can also help to combat cravings.
3. Yoga Is Good Against Depression
Yoga is proven to be an effective complementary therapy for those suffering from depression.
The calm but physical nature of many yoga poses causes endorphins to release, giving a natural mood boost. Likewise, it helps to combat the stress response which can alleviate symptoms of depression.
‘Mental downtime’ is a healing and transformative time for the brain, during which the unconscious mind can get to work on the process of healing deep-down trauma and upset. Yoga provides this ‘downtime’ and the lack of stress and anxiety to the psyche is incredibly beneficial.
4. Yoga Prevents Mental Illness (Particularly In The Young)
The mental health of the modern young is an issue of major concern for today’s medical professionals.
Young people are suffering from more mental illness than ever before – and those who fall prey to mental health issues when young grow up facing a lifetime’s battle.
However, studies are starting to prove that yoga can actually be a preventative measure against mental illness.
Those who practice yoga early in life protect their minds against the stresses and strains of modernity throughout their lives.
It doesn’t just work for young people, though – adults can also use yoga to protect themselves from mental health issues.
Yoga allows the mind to connect with its deeper self and gives the psyche an opportunity to heal or ‘clear out’ troubling issues. Therefore, yoga practices that incorporate the spiritual, as well as the physical, are immensely helpful to those with mental health issues.
5. Yoga Heals The Body
Yoga also seems to be able to heal various physical disorders. Patients who practice yoga experience a decrease in their pain levels, suffer from less inflammation, tend to heal from physical wounds quicker. They even have a higher cancer survival rate than those who do not.
This incredible fact may have something to do with the spiritual benefits of yoga.
Nurses have known for centuries that patients with a more ‘positive attitude’ and better spiritual health tend to recover faster than those who do not.