Yoga as a Spiritual Practice

I’ve been thinking a lot on yoga, and lately I’ve wanted to find a more spiritual-based yoga practice because, after all, that’s what yoga’s main focus is. So many people, myself included at one point and time, practice yoga to gain that “yoga body” or as another form of exercise. While the fitness is a nice benefit to yoga, there is much more to yoga than just the physical practice.

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When you choose to get on your yoga mat you are making the conscious decision to be present with yourself for an hour (give or take). This is mindfulness in action. If you commit to the practice for an extended period of time you are letting go of attachment to control the pace and rather enjoying the journey. Yoga is about being in a state of wholeness. This wholeness is a connection to the body and mind. When you practice the asanas you are present with your breath; you are focused on the breath moving you through each pose. This is yoga as meditation. It is important to carry this wholeness, this state of consciousness in your everyday life because then you are truly able to enjoy a relationship with yourself and the world around you. Rather than being unconscious in your phone, yoga can help you gather an awareness allowing you to be mindful in your life–noticing the flowers as you walk, being present with your children, better able to focus at work, etc.

Deepak Chopra and David Simon wrote on the 7 spiritual laws of yoga, which include: pure potentiality (inner divinity); giving and receiving (being one with the universe because you, like the universe, are in a constant state of change so give and receive to remain balanced); Karma (cause and effect–what you put out into the energetic field comes back to you); least effort (using love as motivation); intention and desire (the law of attraction); law of detachment (let go of control); and dharma (life’s purpose). When you focus on these intentions within your yoga practice you retrain your brain through neuroplasticity to let go and understand you can manifest and create your reality. In practicing these laws on and off the mat you will come to realize your dharma, life’s purpose, and will be able to detach and live in a mindful, fulfilled way.

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Iyengar yoga is rooted in Hatha yoga (movement through the breath), but its focus is aligning the body, mind, and spirit for overall health and wellbeing. There is a stronger focus on alignment and precision within each pose, which ultimately helps your mind better focus on the practice. There are three key elements to Iyengar yoga–technique, sequence, and timing–which all allow one to stay present with pranayama (breath control). There are many forms of yoga, however, to help you become mindful. For me, this form is a wonderful way to really be present and aware.

Thai massage is also rooted in Hatha yoga, among other traditions, but it allows your body and mind to connect through breath and assisted movement. In receiving Thai massage you are relaxing into a state of meditation while also allowing your body to heal and your mind to quiet. In this way, Thai massage (also known as Thai yoga massage) is truly a meditative and healing practice much like traditional yoga. You focus on your breath, focus on being present to relax, and focus on self-care and healing.

Yoga is much more than a workout. It’s truly a lifestyle practice on and off the mat. Yes, the physical benefits are wonderful, but so are the mental and spiritual benefits. In a yoga practice, you learn about yourself–you may push the boundaries, learn how to quiet a racing mind, and learn you are able to heal and control your breath. Next time you step on the mat remember yoga is a spiritual practice first and one that can only help you grow.

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