yoga changes mental outlookBy Faye Martins

Can yoga really change one’s mental outlook? Until the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries, lives revolved around the earth’s natural rhythms. People were dependent on their inner wisdom and their connection to the universe to survive. In today’s global society, technology instantaneously links people from around the world in a false sense of community that leaves its members feeling isolated and alone.

How can we feel a sense of peace in the midst of chaos? According to ancient texts, we live in an illusion – a world in which we accept our perceptions and limitations as reality. To experience our true nature, we must let go of the belief that the answers to our needs and desires come from outside ourselves.

Although we often think of Yoga as physical exercise, postures are only one of its eight different limbs. Yogic teachings provide the tools we need to find out who we are and how we fit into the cosmos. Defined in Sanskrit as “merging with God,” Yoga seeks to align innate wisdom and outward actions, promoting the greater good of self and others.

How does Yoga change a person’s mental outlook?

• Yoga promotes awareness of the mind, body, and spirit. By being aware of our thoughts and emotions and questioning their validity, we learn to distinguish reality from illusion.

• Yoga encourages us to “be here now.” Instead of focusing on the past or worrying about the past, we can enjoy the present moment.

• As we become more aware of our thought patterns, we are able to see them for what they are and spend less time ruminating. The longer we dwell on a thought, the more entrenched it becomes in our consciousness.

• The physical postures of Yoga not only release blockages in the body’s energy system, but they also teach patience and prepare us for meditation.

• The more stressed we are, the more shallow and irregular our breathing becomes. Controlled breathing exercises bring fresh oxygen into the body, eliminate toxins, and improve mood.

• Studies show that the brainwaves of monks actually change during meditation. Yogic meditation makes it easier to rewire the brain circuits that lead to faulty thinking and negative outlooks. It also creates a feeling of well-being and sometimes bliss.

• Yoga improves health and restores the body physically, mentally, and spiritually. When we feel better, our mental outlook improves.

Although he was not speaking of Yoga, the great French novelist Marcel Proust expressed this way of looking at life in the following quote:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

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