Your time on the mat is an investment with enormous returns.
Your day goes by quickly because of your usual schedule, and the empty slots get eaten by some scrolling. You wish to do things a little differently, but it stays a wish, as you carry on the tasks you’re engineered to do by society.
From brushing your teeth to leaving for work, the hands on the clock set most of your day. There’s no time for anything apart from this set of things, which is why the weekend is there to catch up with friends and run other errands.
Think of the last vacation you took. Remember how a part of you never wanted to leave? You feel such a strong sense of serenity and solace. You want to capture that peace and take it with you.
But soon you get back, and it’s all forgotten until you experience it again.
What if there was a way to feel that serenity all the time? What if you had tools and techniques to get yourself out of tough times? What if you no longer need a vacation to build peace because it comes from within?
“Paradise is not a place; it’s a state of consciousness.” — Sri Chinmoy
After one year of yoga, everything I knew about yoga changed. The benefits from spending 15–20 minutes on the mat are some things I never expected would happen:
1. Losing Weight By Not Calorie Counting
For the longest time, I have been that person who measures calories in and calories out to get that ideal body. That’s what we all hear, right? Measure your calories and fulfil your macros.
I have lost nearly 50 lbs which on some days put my mental health through hell by these numbers.
Here’s what my Apple watch shows about burning calories in a 20-minute workout:
- Crossfit: 180-230 cal
- Traditional Strength Training: 100–150 cal
- Yoga: 60–100 cal
You can see how yoga hardly burns any calories, yet it helped me get my fittest body. I shed 5 kilos during the lockdown when I started yoga.
This is because yoga helps:
- Detoxify the body
- Improve blood flow
- Improve strength
- Supports the spine
- Improves the immune system
Instead of only focussing on building muscle or losing weight and exercising yoga helped my body in all its bodily functions. I actually find dead-lifting more than my bodyweight easier now than holding bodyweight postures in yoga. They really are super challenging and the slowness makes it more intense.
2. Eating Healthier, with Little Effort
I’m sure you’ve read somewhere about eating slowly, eating for 20 minutes, eating till you’re 80% full, and all these hacks which no doubt are true.
But how many times have you done it? Is it sustainable? What if there was a way to do any/all of this naturally?
That’s what happened a few months into yoga. I started eating better food and sometimes even lesser than I used to. I replaced my 7 egg white breakfast with fruits without caring about sugar. On other days, it could be a bagel or anything else I wanted to without worrying and overthinking.
Yoga will help you get in touch with your body, and you will listen to it better than before. On some days your body cries for more food and on some days for no food, but this time you’ll actually listen to the signals.
According to science, this is because it increases your sensitivity towards yourself (and others) and increases awareness as well.
3. Awareness to Help Me Be My Own Saviour
In January 2021, I was in a market when my anxiety got triggered. I hadn’t had an attack in a while, and I was all alone, flustered with thoughts. My heart starting pumping like it’s going to burst out of my chest and a part of me wanted to collapse.
No matter what, my breath is always there for me. My mind uttered this subconsciously, and my breath deepened. With some slow and deep breaths, and knowing that what I’m thinking isn’t real and are just some thoughts, I calmed down.
I still get shudders when I think of that day. If it wasn’t for months of cultivating a habit to breathe better, understand myself, and recognise my thoughts and feelings, I don’t know how I would’ve managed that day.
“Look past your thoughts, so you may drink the pure nectar of This Moment.” — Rumi
According to science, yoga helps you:
- Relax by moving into the present moment. This happens when you shift the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (which induces flight and fight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system (which relaxes you).
- Helps get rid of frustration, anger, and fear — feelings that also have many physical illnesses associated with them.
4. (Numbed) Senses Coming to Life
When was the last time you ate food and all your senses were present? Were you looking at it, smelling the aroma, and chewing it mindfully to taste the nectar? Or are you watching Friends?
Mindfulness has suddenly become a wow trait, but all it really means is being present in the moment and taking it in everything you do.
And I don’t mean being mindful of only your environment, but also about your words.
With yoga, your awareness increases. You realise that your words have energy, and you want to use them wisely. No more cribbing and saying “I hate my day” but more like “I understand this is a downfall, it will pass.”
It may sound Zen, but it will start happening automatically as you practice.
“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.” — Eckhart Tolle
Humans are instinctual about vibes. Our ancestors used ‘gut feeling’ to predict predators around them and hide. But with the current highly stimulated lifestyle we lead, our mind is so busy and our ability to practice intuition and awareness is dying down.
Because yoga makes you more aware inside and outside, it becomes easier to sense and feel. From your thoughts to your words to your atmosphere, you will get a better sense of where you are and what you’re feeling and how can you fix it.
5. Better Relationships
Do you ever catch yourself criticising your body?
Do you feel guilty after a night of overeating?
Do you overthink when you have a tiff with your loved ones?
If you resonate with any or all situations, you will benefit immensely. Yoga has a spiritual dimension that helps open your heart. It allows you to give more love to yourself and others. It also softens your defences and makes you less reactive, an important element of a relationship.
The Yogic philosophy emphasises avoiding harm to others and speaking the truth, which also betters relationships.
Personally, becoming kinder to myself has been my biggest life change. For the longest time, I’ve criticised my body. Something as simple as frowning at my fat when I change clothes is a strong negative energy, and I’ve given it to myself multiple times a day for years.
Think of your body as a friend you have. If you criticise it each day and point out undesirable traits, why should you expect it to be nice to you and flourish? Your words and thoughts have energy and yoga helps you become conscious of it so you can turn the negative to positive.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
When you breathe longer and better your entire body thrives with oxygen, and your brain finds a sense of calmness. You don’t need a vacation for this, you just need to spend some time with yourself uninterrupted.
Yoga isn’t an exercise, but a way of living. The benefits it has for you are so immense. If it wasn’t for practising yoga at the beginning of lockdown, I am sure my mental health would’ve suffered during the pandemic.
Yoga can help you find calm in chaos and peace in this process. Here are some ways it helped me and can help you too:
- Lost weight by burning lesser calories
- Eating healthier, with little effort
- Awareness helps you become your own saviour
- The (numbed) senses come to life
- Better relationships
These were the benefits I didn’t see coming because all I’ve known is that ‘yoga makes you flexible’. Clearly, it makes you more flexible to take on your life healthier and happier.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” — Mother Teresa
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