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The Psychological Benefits of Yoga
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June 14, 2009 - 8:00 am
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5 Steps to a Deeper, More Connected Yoga Practice

By John LeMire

People do yoga for many reasons. It is a practice that is for people of all temperaments and constitutions. There is a yoga practice for everyone, from the paraplegic to the tri-athlete. No matter what ails you or how active you are, you can do yoga. Most yoga taught today comes from the physical fitness angle. This is not bad.

It is important to have a physically demanding practice of some sort to keep the body in shape. If you are using yoga as such a practice, great, but don't sell yourself short and neglect the other, more subtle beneficial aspects of yoga. Most of us are aware that yoga is great for the body, but only a few of us know of the other benefits that yoga provides. Yoga is primarily a comprehensive method to focus the mind. A focused mind can be directed without being distracted. The ability to stay focused is tremendously useful. It is a rare ability to have in this world. With threat of distraction being constant, having focus is of paramount importance if you expect to succeed in your endeavors. To experience deeply the benefits of yoga try these five steps:

1. Shut out all distraction and feel the body fully: feel the muscles stretching, feel the breath flowing and feel the environment around you. Immerse yourself into the practice. Let go of everything but what you are doing in the moment. Just be totally focused on your practice, be totally focused on your body and breath.

2. Breath. Let your breath guide your practice. Don't force the breath. Don't be mechanical with your breathing. Let the breath flow gently and smoothly. Even if you are in a vigorous practice you can let the breath guide you. The breath will be fast but it can be smooth and not forced. Letting the breath guide the practice lets you relax into the poses and lets the body really get into the feeling of the pose.

3. Do yoga in a pleasant surrounding. Do yoga where it is nice, do yoga in the sun, do yoga outside where you can hear nature. Doing yoga in this kind of environment adds another dimension to yoga; it adds to the feeling of connectedness. This is something that many people are missing. They feel isolated and fragmented from their current experience. It seems like things are chaotic, like there is no order, no fusion of outer and inner. This happens when we are so caught up in the minds drama that we forget to take a breath, take a moment and just sit and enjoy life. Yoga can bring this fusion of outer and inner worlds. In fact that's what yoga means. Union. Union of opposites. Union of you and the world. Oneness.

4. Stirum Sukham Asanam. Yoga Sutra 2.46. The yoga sutras are a series of stanzas on yoga practice. The sutras cover the core of Yogic philosophy. Yoga in the traditional sense means Union. Union of subject and object. Union of self with Self. Even if you haven't read the Yoga Sutras (if you are interested in the philosophy of yoga check them out) this one stanza applies to any practice. Stirum sukham asanam roughly translates to steadiness and ease in asana and in the mind field. An overly demanding yoga practice will cause the body to be unsteady. If not during the practice, then later on during your day to day activities. You don't want a rigid and overbearing yoga practice. All these things increase the chance of injuries. A practice where the body and mind are steady and at easy is best.

5. Listen to yourself. This part of the previous step but deserves its own section because it is so important. Listen to your body. Respect what it is telling you. Don't force your body to do something it isn't ready to do or push it beyond its limits. That is when injury and dis-ease come in. Listen to you body. Listen to your mind. Listen to your self. This applies off the mat also. As you start listening more on the mat you are going to naturally be more in tune with what your true desires and needs are off the mat.

Listen and execute those deeper thoughts and desires and your life situation will improve. Incorporate these simple steps into your practice and you will see results. The main thing is to go at your own pace and to listen to your self. Sitting in meditation after or before yoga helps focus the mind even more. Yoga is about training the mind so you can gain a larger perspective from which to interact with the world from. Do yoga. Be yoga. Live the yogic lifestyle.

John Lemire has been practicing meditation for over 5 years. He has been trained as a yoga teacher and teaches meditation. John was a raw food vegan for over a year and a half and still incorporates a ton of fresh, live foods in his diet. John owns and operates a meditation and yoga blog. Where he posts his experiences and knowledge on the subjects of raw food, yoga, meditation and healthy lifestyle habits. Check out the many free high quality guided meditations he has put together.

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