Yoga is more than just exercise, but a literal merging of body, mind, and spirit. You have to realize this for yourself by practicing yoga consistently each day, often for years. Consciously choosing to make time for your practice opens up new realms of bliss and higher awareness. You gain a greater understanding of yourself and your purpose in this world. However this only happens once you break through the walls of limited beliefs and negative self-talk that hold you down.
Physical Merging with Spiritual
When you begin to experience kundalini flow throughout your body it affects your entire being in multiple and amazing ways. Your stress is immediately lowered, neurotransmitters like serotonin and oxytocin[efn_note]Effect of yoga therapy on plasma oxytocin and facial emotion recognition deficits in patients of schizophrenia.[/efn_note] are elevated, and you start feeling elated in a natural high. Thus, because of these biological changes there is enhancement in overall vitality.
Your five senses open to a much deeper level and you develop a sixth sense. You cultivate the ability to understand life’s circumstances much better with a higher degree of awareness. You begin seeing people for who they are, and circumstances for what they are. This merging I speak of is the body literally joining with the metaphysical or spiritual aspects of our existence (it’s the way I see it anyway). The body becomes more aligned with the soul. The ‘psychospiritual’ qualities of your nature, which are often dormant, begin to emerge.
This greater expression of your true, authentic self is the raw and unbridled revelation of desire. In other words, you don’t care anymore what other people think: how you dress, what you like and dislike according to their opinions, and whether they approve.
You become a bold, more considerate individual because you see the Divine in both yourself and others, which causes greater appreciation for the commonly shared values like the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” becomes innately familiar. Your inner compass knows that if you don’t treat others with respect and kindness, your body will suffer. The body is connected to the mind and spirit, and what you do ethically has an effect on your health.
This physical merging of the body with the five senses is the doorway to abundant health and longevity. Not only will you make wiser choices concerning which foods to eat and how much sleep you need, but your biology alters to a more restored state. Stress is probably the largest roadblock to higher awareness and optimal health. Eliminate most of it and you will feel like a new person in a new world.
When you break free from the shackles in life that no longer serve you, your hormones shift, your mind becomes calmer, and you experience a greater focus overall. Hence your yoga practice improves, which develops greater strength and flexibility. This makes you feel AWESOME—I don’t know how else to say it.
Doing yoga poses and practicing meditation regularly unlocks a sacred rhythm of homeostasis. Your body becomes more in synch with your spirit. This sounds ‘unscientific’ to the average left-brain person, but science cannot measure nor explain the metaphysical aspects of existence which can only be understood subjectively. You must engage in yogic emersion for yourself—a serious discipline—if you want to experience what I’m talking about.
The physical body is made of trillions of cells. Each cell has a specific function for which mitochondria control. Though DNA is the blueprint of our organism, its expression can be regulated depending on the environment. Researchers have found that thoughts, feelings and emotions trigger hormones and mental states. Such mental states turn some genes on and others off, which can be a good or bad thing depending on whether the experience is compassion and blissful, or negative and stressful.
I have found exceptional improvements in my mental and physical states from doing yoga and meditation alone. In fact there have been months on end when I only did yoga—and kept strong muscle mass and exercise endurance. Unlike lifting heavy weights, running, or hiking which have their own additional benefits, yoga seems to target the endocrine system in a more restorative way. I love using free weights, swimming, running, hiking, etc., but these activities feel incomplete without regular yoga practice of at least every other day.
I think a large part of this enhanced endocrine response has to do with the breathing that yoga and meditation require. You cultivate improvements in your ability to inhale and exhale due to channeling your breath slower, filling your lungs up to the max, and holding it for longer durations. The prolonged periods of contorting your body in positions that are uniquely challenging require massive focus and self-awareness—not to mention, self-determination (yoga is harder than initially perceived). This internal recognition influences your ability to focus more on your breath as a way to channel your balance and center your mind.
Further, doing asanas, meditating in lotus postures, and doing breath-work (pranayama) enhances the physical body in ways that are unique for anti-aging and longevity. Studies have shown meditation to increase the enzyme telomerase, which activates the chromosomes’ ability to repair telomeres at the ends of these structures. In English, this means you will age slower—because the gradual shortening of telomeres at the ends of chromosomes leads to destruction of the cell. The reason is because it can no longer divide.
Cells divide and replicate throughout our lives, and each time they do, the telomeres (like shoelace ‘caps’ that prevent fraying) get a little shorter. Thus once they get too short, the cell becomes senescent or dead, and can no longer divide. Moreover, this cell replication process is the principle theory on why we age.
Stereotypes, Trends and Peer Pressure
Often, we grow up in societies that stifle our creative nature. The ways we express ourselves are often the cause of programming we have received from parents, schools, relationships, and the culture overall. This is not always counterproductive, but people don’t often spend enough time with themselves to build a more authentic character. When you get alone more to do reflective, soul-searching work, you build a resistance to the winds of doctrine which you know innately serve you not. Your Higher Self seems to be more present, and your inner compass is intuitively accurate.
If you haven’t noticed, I like to have color in my persona. I like to wear more than the average, boring mens apparel with limited design. If women can wear mens clothes and get away with it, why can’t I? Not that I really need to bring this up, but I am an individual. I think more people in this world need to embrace their true authenticity and break out of their shell. The world could be a lot more peaceful, constructive and enjoyable if humans could just get past their insecurities and fears that hold them back.
Yoga has helped me realize myself more, and this is the result of my bold desire to go within. I came out from the USMC in 2012, and marched boldly into the realm of entrepreneurship by building a few companies and celebrating my unbridled, free-loving self. Yoga has been a powerful journey over the past 9 years since I took my first class in 2010, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Self Love and Doing Yoga
In conclusion, yoga is a beautifully transformative practice. Sometimes, however, you don’t feel like going to the studio or getting on your mat. If you don’t overcome the temptation to skip class, it will become habitual and yoga will become an occasion luxury. Such intermittence will not have the remarkable benefits of regular practice.
The enthusiastic yogis who constantly practice each day, to the post of borderline addiction, seem to have a fortified self-identity cultivated within. They know that they need to do yoga in order to maintain the standard they have set for themselves. Many of these people have been through enormous hardships in life, but found yoga to be their legal wonder drug; that’s sort of how it’s been for me.
From personal experience once I get down on the mat I start breathing differently, and my entire state of being shifts. Whatever I may have been ruminating about five minutes earlier seems to melt away. Sometimes I need to make myself stop whatever I am doing—like writing computer code at my desk—to simply meditate and do yoga for sanity.
Many successful achievers, such as inventors, often tell the story when they couldn’t figure out a frustrating problem, perhaps in a science lab. However, once they got on the bus or took a walk in the park, the solution came to their mind as clear as a bell. Thus, ruminating on problems without giving yourself time to breath will block awareness. Yoga and meditation is a powerful antidote for that.
Moreover, try to do yoga or meditate, even for a few minutes. It’s surprising to discover what flashes of insight come forth.
Make some green tea and get down on the mat. You will be richly rewarded and thankful that you did. Just love yourself wholeheartedly, because you are worth it. ~ Sat Nam