Breathing in I calm my body. Breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.
Thich Nhat Hanh
by Sally Perkins
One of the frequently touted benefits of yoga is its ability to connect us with our spiritual side. Yoga is far more than an activity; it is also a lifestyle, one in which body, mind and spirit are seen as one and the same. Yoga helps curb anxiety and depression, but its effects go far beyond helping keep us free of mental illness. Yoga can help us with deeper aims, including having a well-adjusted personality, contributing effectively to community life, taking responsibility for our actions, and tolerating our frustrations. Spirituality – having a connection to something greater than ourselves – is a quality we can enrich by strengthening our relationship with nature, and engaging in yoga, a vital tool in helping us to break barriers and reconnect with our rich inner world. Budding and seasoned yogis alike can find the perfect combination of both in the Heart of the Village yoga, nestled in the lush valley of the scenic Green Mountains of Vermont.
What the Research Says
Studies by academics such as Dr. Harold G. Koenig show that people who are more spiritual, are happier, have better mental health and adapt more quickly to health issues, than those who ignore this part of their well-being. It can be difficult to strengthen our spirituality and comply with all the duties and responsibilities that vie for our attention; one very simple yet effective way, is by spending more time in nature. Research has shown that being in the great outdoors has many restorative effects; it decreases our level of (stress hormone) cortisol, lifts our mood, gives us energy and helps battle stress, anxiety and depression. A lush, verdant scenery is the ideal setting in which to practice controlled breathing and mindful meditation. Free of distracting technology, noise pollution and movement, we can better connect with the thoughts, feelings and emotions we so often ignore in our day-to-day lives.
Yoga a Powerful Aid in Spirituality
Yoga is a practice whose benefits transcend way beyond the physical. Studies have shown that retreats involving yoga, meditation and stress management techniques, can significantly increase spirituality in participants. Yoga, like nature, is a powerful stress buster. It is a powerful mindful activity that involves deep concentration as we engage in the performance of asanas and pranayamic breathing. As noted by Paramahansa Yogananda, author of best-selling book, Autobiography of a Yogi, “Many people think of yoga as just physical exercises — the asanas or postures that have gained widespread popularity in recent decades — but these are actually only the most superficial aspects of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potential of the human mind and soul.”
Spirituality is a vital pillar for improving our mental health, but also for reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, substance abuse and a plethora of additional conditions. To build a richer and deeper connection with ourselves and the world around us, it is important to take proactive measures such as spending time in nature and taking part in yoga classes. It important to keep mental illness at bay, but also to be a better, more giving and empathetic person – qualities which the regular practice of yoga can help strengthen.
Sally Perkins is the Content Manager for a small spirituality focused hiking, camping, and outdoors site. For more articles of this nature, take a look: http://backpackerverse.com/