Yoga is a beautiful practice dating back to over 5,000 years of spiritual growth and self-discovery. It is most often widely represented and honored in the Western world through poses or the (asana), physical practice.
However, yoga is far more than an exploration of flexibility and structural body postures. Yoga is a spiritual practice designed to intentionally deepen your connection between your mind, body, and soul.
Yoga teaches us that the mind, body, and soul function as one and are all related.
If one is out of balance, the other must carry the weight. Which in turn, throws it out of balance also. Are you thinking back to why so many yoga poses require building our core support for balance? Yes! It’s because each part of the physical process is directly connected to the foundation of the spiritual practice.
The spiritual benefits of yoga include, but are not limited to,
- a deepened connection to oneself,
- enhanced mental clarity,
- the integration of mindfulness practices in all areas of your life,
- and support while experiencing spiritual alignment.
Keep reading to dive into 4 ways yoga leads to spiritual growth. Evaluate each element and determine how it could look or feel for you.
Journal along the way to further actualize each point for yourself and understand how it relates to where you are in your practice.
1. A Deepened Connection to Oneself
Yoga is a powerful method for relaxation, meditation, and breath work (pranayama).
However, it is also a space to challenge our outlook, create questions about our patterns, and dig deep into the depths of our soul to understand ourselves better.
There are poses such as child’s pose where our intention is to unwind, catch our breath, and reset. Yet, there are also other poses such as tree pose where we are invited to go on a deeper journey with ourselves to find our internal rooted anchor or (balance).Tree pose among many other poses, calls balance and strength into our present moment, while also welcoming in gentleness and forgiveness. Yoga highlights the duality we face within ourselves.
Just as a tree, there are moments when all is thriving, there are moments when we are shaken, there are moments when we fall. All these moments are valid and honored on our journey on and off the mat.
Practicing a yoga pose or yoga sequence is about far more than the way you physically look. It’s about finding mental, emotional, and spiritual connectedness through physical movement.
Yoga provides a release of the resistance that impacts our spiritual development and enlightenment. The practice is an active invitation to meet yourself again and again.
2. Mental Clarity
The brain gets foggy sometimes. Our thoughts become muddy, and our mind literally goes into freeze mode. Life can be overwhelming at times and quite frankly, a lot to take in.
Admitting we feel this way does not limit our ability to handle life, it just creates an honest allowing for our feelings to live freely within us.
Developing a yoga practice creates an open space for us to speak plainly in these moments and check in with how they are affecting our mind, body, and soul.
The openness of this communication promotes discovery and investigation that leads to answers and in some cases, as a form of acceptance.
Yoga, in its heart, holds your hand and sits with you while you sort things out. While you attempt to make sense of what doesn’t quite make sense. While you sift through all your mental file cabinets to find your solutions or answers.
Mental clarity comes through discovery. Your entire yoga practice is a discovery.
Discovering how your body flows from one movement to the next, discovering how your body feels in these moments, discovering what your mind is processing in these moments, discovering what you feel in these moments, and so on.
This discovery is a life practice. We learn through yoga to welcome in the moments where we lack clarity, sit them down at our table, and have a conversation to work it out.
3. The Integration of Mindfulness Practices
According to What is Mindfulness?|Our Gateway to the Present by Fred Garratt-Stanley, there are many ways the word ‘mindfulness’ can be interpreted. He notes it refers both to a state of mind that can be accessed during everyday life, and to the more formal practice of mindfulness meditation.
One translation in the article comes from meditation teacher, Shinzen Young, who interprets mindfulness as a system of “concentration power, sensory clarity, and equanimity working together.”
Garratt-Stanley further breaks down this interpretation in more laymen’s terms stating, “Young” is referring to the process of being aware of what’s happening both inside you and around you (AKA the present), and feeling at ease with those experiences.
In short, Mindfulness is a check-in between the mind, body, and soul. It’s the gentle pause you take to consider how something made you feel, why you feel this way, and how you feel about the way you feel.
Deep questions, right? Where’s your journal?
Mindfulness is a practice we use when addressing our triggers, countering impulsive decisions, and honoring ourselves through self-care. For example, in our yoga practice, choosing to use a prop to bring more ease into our body is a form of mindfulness.
Let’s take a little journey into yoga class…
During your practice, you notice how a pose feels for you and investigate why you feel this way. Maybe, you’re feeling a bit tighter in your lower back and could use a block as a substitute for connecting to the floor in your low lunge twist pose.
A block can be positioned higher than the floor, thus creating more ease in your body. Once the block is applied, the ease you feel creates a sense of relief or “release” in your body. You take a deep breath or release a natural sigh of relief.
You are practicing mindfulness in the moment that you acknowledge how you feel.
We take these habits with us on our spiritual growth journey and all areas of our life. We can choose to be more mindful of the food we are choosing to nourish our bodies.
Maybe, this will create an awareness about the fact that you may not have nourished your body with food or water at all or enough today!
Feeling seen? Journal about it…
Mindfulness is a key point in our spiritual growth as it creates a check-in point between the person we were and the person we are becoming. We are ever evolving beings. We are always growing, learning, and thriving.
We are here in this walk of life, to remember who we are at a core level, a soul level, a cellular level. You are being and becoming at the same time.
Our yoga practice offers us a moment of remembrance that in turn sparks mindfulness in our daily being.
4. Your Spiritual Growth Awaits You
There is this flicker of the light switch or inner knowing when it’s time to embark on a deeper spiritual journey within ourselves. We find it or it finds us… in a rather roundabout way. A way that only makes sense, typically, once the journey comes to completion.
This means for much of the journey, you are in a state of discovery. Simply doing your best to just find your way. You may feel lonely, but you are not alone. You are choosing to grow and that sometimes comes served with a side of isolation.
Why is that?
What you once knew as your truth may begin to shift and therefore the evidence that once comforted you may become less enjoyable. People, places, and things begin to shift in and out of your life to create space for more truths that align with your ever evolving self.
Yoga during this experience, can feel like a best friend. The practice in itself and the community of support that comes along with it. It can feel isolating, but the journey does not have to be isolating.
You can empower yourself to allow yoga to be a form of comfort and support to you as you are spiritually growing.
Growth comes with the resurgence of memories that provide answers to specific shifts in your life, the tapping into of energy around you with more ease, the experience of enhanced mental clarity, and improved self-awareness.
Move With Grace
No matter what your current experience level is with yoga, there is spiritual growth along the path if you continue to choose it. The spiritual benefits of yoga can be felt and experienced at all levels.
It may feel at first like these words aren’t quite connecting to your experience and if so, give it some time. The mind, body, and soul and re-meeting each other. In most occurrences of reintroduction, it takes time to find the flow and ease.
Approach your yoga journey with no expectation.
Allow yourself to be present with whatever the moment or experience has in store for you. Focusing too much on a particular outcome only pushes it away further from being experienced in our present realm.
Know that we all experience spiritual growth in different ways and timelines. It could look similar or very different for you.
Practice with the intention of self-discovery through yoga and be open to the various spiritual benefits of yoga that will find you such as a deepened connection with yourself, improved mental clarity, integrating the practice of mindfulness in all areas of your life, and allowing yourself to feel support while experiencing spiritual alignment.
Journal about your practice and what you process along the way. Use the connections shared in this space as a reference point for going deeper with yourself through your yoga practice.
It is with hope that what you found here today will resonate for a lifetime.