What is yoga other than an excuse to wear stretchy pants 24/7? Yoga is not all trend-chasing and namaste puns. The power of yoga is immense, benefitting your mind as much as your body. Whether you’re new to the practice or an avid participant, let’s take a look at the invaluable benefits of meditation through movement and discover all that is the power of yoga.
Yoga originated in India, the birthplace of many practices that employ a holistic and all-encompassing approach to health and healing focused on the mind, body and higher self. Another such example is Ayurveda, a nutrition practice based on your inner, outer, and spiritual self. Like yoga, Ayurveda is an intentional practice in which you actively take preventative measures to fuel your body and attain higher levels of health, fitness and mental wellness. The flow of yoga has, through the ages, been a powerful tool for healing through its meditative properties and physical movement. The power of yoga has been known for thousands of years.
The most important aspect of yoga practice is the breath. Think of the breath as the bass in a band; it’s the ear’s keeper of rhythm, the part of the music that is both heard and felt. Just as music would be superficial without a baseline, yoga practice can feel more like awkward dancing without full awareness of the breath. The power of yoga comes within the practice of mastering a steady breath with equal inhales and exhales while putting into action various moves that stretch and test your body. Breathing may seem like a no-brainer, since we all breathe subconsciously in our everyday lives. But intentional breath requires a heavy dose of mindfulness.The hard work in yoga is cultivating the patience to move slowly and breathe steadily. A regular breathing practice also allows your body the space to hold poses and isometrically strengthen muscles that aren’t usually activated.
During practice, make sure you notice which positions trigger sensation in certain parts of your body. Body scanning is a valuable tool to keep your mind free of distracting thoughts as you practice while discarding the clutter in our minds. In order to accomplish this power of yoga, focus the breath, focus on the physical sensation of your burning and stretching muscles, and then direct your mental awareness to a singular place of sensation in your body.
This awareness can even improve your ability to sit into positions. A move such as Warrior II, for example – in which your front leg is bent with knee over the toe, your back leg is straight with toes at 90 degrees; both arms are straight out parallel to hips – the front knee is responsible for a lot of weight and stability. If you counter this effort by focusing your attention on the back foot, actively pressing down on the earth, and isolating thought wholly on that foot, the pose will magically become easier.
This may sound like an “easier said than done” scenario, but the power of yoga shows us how the mind is an assistant to our body and capable of working wonders. Yoga practice is about clearing the mind and clarifying the body, momentarily ridding yourself of the noise of the outside world. Of course it’s a challenge to unlock this power of yoga and allow your thoughts to pass like clouds without letting them take center stage. But even just practicing.. attempting.. giving it a try.. benefits you more than you’d think.
The mind is a muscle, just like the glutes that burn during Warrior II. It takes practice to build up resistance.
A helpful tip: Recognize the thought and acknowledge the task, person, or worry with a mental nod. “I see you.” This helps to deflate the thought taking up space in your brain without punishing yourself for allowing the thought to present itself in the first place.
The power of yoga is most effective when done slowly. In fact, the majority of the “work” being done is isometric, in which muscles are engaged through tight contractions, just as what occurs through the shaking of a balance pose. An isometric movement is a subtle, internal rotation of the muscles in which there is no visible movement in the joint. Isometric contraction activates the muscles that are underworked because it’s much more subtle that more intense movements in which prominent muscles take over. The main purpose of maintaining these power-of-yoga isometric loops is to build the muscles that protect vulnerable places in our bodies, such as the lower back, neck, knees, and hips.
Skull Loop – forward rotation
Shoulder Loop – backward rotation
Kidney Loop – forward rotation
Pelvic Loop – backward rotation
Thigh Loop – backward rotation
Calf Loop – forward rotation
Ankle Loop – backward rotation
During all poses, even Tadasana (standing with arms slightly out facing forward), keep these directional loops active in your posture. This may be an overwhelming amount of conflicting movement, so practice one at a time! You’ll notice how much easier certain poses become as you activate these loops.
Two additional and equally important aspects of yoga to keep in mind as you move are alignment and rootedness. Alignment in the hips and shoulders keeps you balanced so your weight is well dispersed. Your hips should always create a parallel or perpendicular line with the ground. If a pose requires you to place your hands on the ground, make sure the hand and shoulder line-up to protect your elbow.
Rootedness refers to the body points that connect with the ground. These points are your secret weapon to finding length. In a perfect Downward Dog, for example, legs, back, and arms are straight while the tailbone is pointed straight up at the sky. This can be difficult for many because of hamstrings, the bane of some flexibility. The best adjustment you can make in this pose that renders immediate results is to press your hands into the earth and isometrically attempt to pull the mat in opposing directions with your flush palms. Think of the ground as a springboard; you won’t feel it physically pushing back at you unless you use your own power to create a dual reaction.
A truly mesmerizing power of yoga is realizing that you can, with the most miniscule tweaks to your movement, ease your body far more successfully into a pose. Of course, remember to listen to your body as you try out these techniques. It’s more important to feel safe in your body than to nail a pose.
You do not need to have particular beliefs to benefit from the subconscious aspects of yoga, although having an open mind is helpful to prevent you from shying away from looking inward. Be gentle with yourself as you practice, and remember that recurring thoughts, no matter how false they are, can become your reality if you allow them permanent real estate in your mind. A power of yoga is the access it provides to meditation, an invaluable way to polish the inner (higher) self subconsciously to crack old habits and manifest your way to a more favorable reality.
The Power of Yoga: 7 Benefits
1. Improve strength, balance, and flexibility
2. Relieve back pain
3. Ease arthritic symptoms
4. Boost heart health
5. Relax to sleep better
6. Feel more energy and brighter moods.
7. Manage stress subconsciously
Access The Power of Yoga at X3 Sports
At X3 Sports, we have developed unique flow classes, which include everything from mixed martial arts to yoga, in order to help our members access the power of yoga and other benefits of our full body fitness center.
One class you might love is our Fight & Flow class, a full-body workout that meshes bodyweight calisthenics with foundational martial arts movement through elements of Tai Chi while maintaining focus on the breath. We’ve found that integrating certain aspects of martial arts with yoga poses leads to stronger, more intentional practices that benefit the mind and body. Are you interested in learning more? Come visit one of our five convenient locations in the Greater Atlanta Area. Book your first class for free today and see if a membership is right for you.