How Can Yoga And Meditation Improve Your Health?
Everyone has their own yoga story. Mine started when I was 11, when I took my first yoga asana class at figure skating camp. I grew up with a deeply spiritual father that introduced me to astrology, tarot, wicca, magic, and Buddhism among other things from a very young age in childhood, so I knew that yoga was all part of it by the time I was 11. Over the years, I returned to my yoga and meditation practice while in theater school, art school, and in drop in classes throughout high school and college, when I realized I needed to make my lifelong dream of going to India a reality.
Throughout these years, my experiments with drugs, alcohol, and the part scene in NYC seemed to be balanced out with a vegan diet and weekly yoga and meditation. What began as a celebration of life quickly turned into a normal day or night of partying, a habit I brought with me to college in Boulder, Colorado, at a much more responsible rate of a few times a week. By the time I left for my around-the-world trip, I had stripped down to only drinking alcohol, which I still took to excess in party hostels throughout Europe and South East Asia. Heading to India to take my first 200-hour YTTC was the first month I was sober since before I was 14. What was meant to be a few months quickly turned into nearly two years of travel throughout India studying the ancient vedic knowledge of yoga and meditation and sharing all that I learned. There are tons of websites that will tell you about how meditation balances our emotions or mental state, or which yoga asanas will heal your digestive health. Hell, I could tell you all of that too, but my teaching style is about relatability, so I only share what I know from personal experience rather than from all that I have studied- academics have a time and a place in this subject.
Yoga asana showed me my body: it showed me what I needed to strengthen and stretch; it taught me how to live fully in alignment and dive deep into my personal vibration. Pranayama taught me how to master my breath, Kriyas taught me how to master my vibration, and meditation taught me how to master the voice in my head. Yoga has helped me to release repressed trauma and to feel the underlying emotions that lead me to depression and anxiety, which was quickly masked by drugs, alcohol, and partying. The philosophy of yoga showed me my intuition, so deep and so vast that an ocean moved through my body and experienced its’ own abyss within the cells of my being.
So, what does physical yoga asana do for your health?
The beautiful part of yoga asana how energy unblocks itself and flows through the body when in the correct alignment of the posture. Correct alignment would allow you to breathe normally, and you may feel an opening energetically within your body. Most asanas work to detoxify, strengthen, and stretch your body in order to purify the vessel and prepare it for greater experiences of energy. If you feel any pain, you are in the incorrect alignment. The purpose of yoga asana is for health, steadfastness, and strength, so flexibility is actually a byproduct, not the main intention. By letting your breath be your guide, follow how natural it is for you to breathe in each asana, as this will bring you to the correct alignment.
How does meditation improve your health?
Meditation is the entire point of a yoga practice. when you sit and breathe, noticing any sensations without adhering to the mind in its drive towards craving or aversion, is the practice of equanimity and the only path to full awakening. The beginning can be tough, my best advice is to always be your own best friend. Cheer yourself on, support yourself, even if you only meditate for one minute a day. By practicing breathwork, or just laying on the ground, watching the belly rise and fall for 15 minutes a day, you can begin to become aware of the breath, the mind, and the emotions or sensations that arise. As your practice develops, you may notice yourself as a witness to these experiences, rather than as the one doing them. This is a beautiful experience in your spiritual growth, however it is vital to simply experience it, rather than create a story about the experience. When you meditate, you stop decoding. You simply ‘be.’ As you allow your breath to be your guide again and focus on your inhale and exhale, you’ll notice a shift in yourself and your perceived environment. You may notice that your emotions aren’t so dominant. Everything will just slowly being to fall into place around you — as long as you give yourself the space to get there. The universe is created around a still center, as we sit in stillness, life in all of its' abundance finds us.