While many people take yoga classes or start a home yoga practice for the health and physical benefits, those who have practiced for any extended period of time know there is much more to yoga. Even beyond the reduction of mental stress typically associated with yoga, there is much to gain spiritually and consciously. These types of benefits are often harder to quantify or describe, but that does not make them any less real.
Presence of Mind
A large part of yoga is about being present in the moment. Rather than letting our minds wander freely as they like, when practicing yoga, we bring our awareness to the body and to the breath. Like training the physical body, the mind becomes better at this with repeated effort over time. Ultimately, this increased focus and awareness rewards us spiritually. We feel connected with ourselves and our surroundings, slowly becoming a part of something larger than ourselves.
Understanding of Self
Yoga moves us inward. Part of yoga is the withdrawal of the senses. Instead of directing our sensory organs toward the outer world, we turn them inside. Lying in savasana, or any restorative yoga pose, it becomes possible to move our awareness inward layer by layer. The body relaxes and becomes more quiet; the mind becomes more quiet. Inside of this stillness, we can relax and become aware of our own true self. While this self-awareness will not happen every time we practice yoga, even a few moments of the mind being in a quiet and comfortable place is nourishing and restorative to the spirit.
Growing in Compassion
At the end of a yoga class, it is natural to feel calm, focused and quiet. Looking around the room at other students, you can see it in their faces, too. Everyone is present and aware. Going through a meaningful shared experience, even something as seemingly simple as a yoga class, draws us closer to other people. We are likely to feel caring and compassion toward our fellow practitioners. Hopefully, we take that feeling with us out of the studio and into the world.
Yoga is rewarding and nourishing on many different levels. The mind, body and spirit are all served by the regular practice of yoga. Even if you started yoga for other reasons, you may find the most meaningful aspect of yoga is in the growth of your own human spirit.