Although there are many physical benefits to Yoga, it’s really when Yoga is combined with mindfulness and spiritual aspect that it becomes truly fulfilling. Mindfulness is the cultivation of presence. It’s the practice of actively directing your consciousness to the present moment. By cultivating mindfulness, you can begin to learn to enjoy your life just the way it is. Not for what you want it to be in the future or what it was in the past, but for what your life is like now. Once you can learn to love your life as it is, then you’ll no longer suffer and will instead be happy. Stress, sadness, anger, etc will all disappear once you’re truly at peace with and appreciate what’s in your life right now.
On a physical level, the Asanas are designed to help you stretch every muscle group in your body. All of your internal organs are massaged during the Yoga session. This results in more blood flow through your body, even in areas that don’t normally get blood flow. Your joints and ligaments get more lubricated as a result. Your cholesterol lowers, respiration improves and your immune system strengthens. Those are some of the physical benefits of Yoga and the Asanas.
On a spiritual level, the Asanas are designed to take you through a range of experiences during one Yoga session. A series of Asanas might take you through experiencing stress, pain, relaxation, frustration, effort, stretching, burning, etc. These Asanas allow you to practice maintaining mindfulness in times of stress. For most people, it’s quite easy to be present and enjoy the moment when life is going exactly how they want. However, it’s really when life isn’t going how they want that people need to cultivate presence and appreciation the most. That’s where the Asanas come in. By giving you a broad range of physical experiences to work with, you have an amazing space in which you can cultivate that presence and appreciation for the moment, no matter what’s happening.
People tend to think that meditation is about thinking or concentrating. Other people think it’s about transcending or disconnecting from reality. Meditation is the opposite of all these things. Meditation is the real-world practice of learning how to deeply accept and appreciate what’s true in your life in every moment. Thinking takes you away from and disconnects you from reality. Instead, with meditation you’re getting more in touch with reality. You’re learning and practicing how to be present. To experience meditation yourself, try this simple experiment.
As you’re reading this material, just close your eyes and observe your breathing. Without trying to change anything, just observe your breath. See how much you can enjoy the simple act of breathing. There is no pressure. Just be with your breath and enjoy it for what it is. See how deeply you can cherish and enjoy the experience of breathing.
Meditation is learning how to enjoy every moment of your life, no matter what’s going on for you right now. Meditation is about learning how to cherish your life and all its experiences, even when you’re experiencing a “negative emotion.” It’s not about changing how you feel. It’s about learning to enjoy the experience no matter what’s happening right now. One downside to meditation is its sedative nature. You’re practicing the art of enjoying what is while you’re sitting on a cushion. Although you can reach very high stages of spiritual fulfillment through meditation, sometimes it can be hard to translate what you learn into practical use once you leave the cushion.