Most yoga classes in the west focus mainly on the physical benefits of yoga, reduced tension, and increased flexibility and strength.
However, a regular yoga practice can also provide you with numerous spiritual benefits, and this aspect of yoga can bring more balance into your life, both on and off the mat.
The discovery of the power of the spirit-based side of yoga can impact your relationship with yourself and others and is often one reason why yogis keep coming back to yoga and develop their practice with meditation, retreats, and education around yoga philosophy.
Here we explore the importance of spiritual yoga practice and how you can experience the benefits for yourself.
- The Spiritual Stretch
- Cultivating Awareness
- Relinquishing Control
- Mental Focus and Clarity
- A Quiet Mind
- Yoga Is Not a Religion
- The Takeaway
The Spiritual Stretch
The spiritual practice of yoga involves connecting something bigger than just the physical asanas you perform in a yoga class.
It can involve different types of meditation, cultivation of self-awareness, mantras, and a respectful attitude towards all living creatures, including animals.
Yoga techniques can support spiritual growth by teaching us how to maintain a sense of calm in difficult situations, understanding compassion towards other people, knowledge surrounding the real meaning of yoga controlling and our emotions, and balancing our desires for success.
Yoga can help you on your path to a better body-mind relationship in the following ways:
With awareness of how we act when faced with stress and other challenges, we can learn to choose our response better so that we respond to things with more intention and kindness, improving our relationships and resilience.
Mindfulness and relaxation experiences help us notice our thoughts and feelings to recognize our habitual responses to triggers and act more helpfully as we advance.
Yoga postures and techniques can help us stop grasping to control everything and instead allow us to accept what is, reducing our stress and anxiety.
For example, in postures such as corpse pose, we learn to control our breathing and body. As a result, we experience a sense of letting go, which can help us find greater peace in daily life.
Yoga philosophy can also teach us that we suffer most when trying to control the things we cannot, and therefore, we can find greater happiness and freedom when we learn to accept everything the way it is.
Mental Focus and Clarity
Yoga teaches us that our thoughts are not always accurate and that we can learn to choose which to pay attention to and which to let go of. This helps us to feel less overwhelmed and more present at the moment.
Focusing on the breath can create more space in mind, which helps us clarify what is important to us. This can help us make better decisions and ask questions about how we live instead of just operating on autopilot.
This focused energy can help with creativity, faith, love, being in the moment, and being a friend to your own spirit and self.
A Quiet Mind
Yoga can help us quieten the noise of modern life. With all the constant notifications, emails, and technological distractions, it can be hard to find opportunities for stillness.
On the other hand, with the completion of meditation exercises, or the focus on a mantra, we can improve our concentration and awareness, even when faced with a noisy and hectic environment.
One exercise that helps with this is a form of breathing practice, which connects the movement of our arms with our breath, which calms the mind.
Our mind is strongly linked to our body, which is why the practice of yoga and yoga poses, in particular, are designed to prepare people to open their hearts to others and find wholeness through peace of mind.
Yoga Is Not a Religion
Yoga can be a purely physical practice. However, it is also a spiritual discipline for most people and becomes a lifestyle that includes a specific mentality focused on positive intentions and ‘being’ rather than purely doing.
Yoga is not a religious practice. However, while there is a focus on Hindu and Buddhist spirits, there is no worshiping or prayer in the traditional sense, just the idea that we are all ‘one and that students are united in spirit and soul.
The spiritual purpose of yoga is for students to increase their consciousness of their actions and behaviors, live intentionally, and gain inspiration from advanced practitioners who have embodied these ‘laws’ of being.
Of course, you can do yoga without the spiritual aspect by just focusing on poses that strengthen the muscles and increase energy. However, many students get drawn into the more spiritual benefits when they see an example of a yogi living with spiritual practice.
Such a person can appear to be living in a healthy and love-focused space, which means they have absorbed aspects of yoga wisdom, and that they question the truth about how life could and should be lived.
It does not matter so much about the physical performance of a yoga pose if you can gain health through self-awareness, clarity of thought, and an open heart. You can obtain these benefits through several means, without force or a high-energy posture.
Many people who first practice yoga for the body end up enjoying life more when they learn spirituality.
An asana practice can help you on your journey to better physical health, but most people who practice yoga start to connect to the spirit-based aspects of this ancient well-being system.
You can first practice yoga to get in better physical shape and then transition into a person who chooses a different path, one which focuses on mindfulness and connection to the world around them.
You can ease into this side of yoga by practicing meditations, breath practices, and mantras and then seeing where it takes you.