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For us at Yoga Journal, every month is yoga month. There isn’t a day that goes by when we’re not thinking about it, learning about it, writing about it, posting about it, or practicing it. And we’re guessing it’s the same for many of you. But during this year’s National Yoga Awareness Month, we wanted to take a step back to consider and celebrate some of the reasons why we all come to yoga.
The many benefits of your yoga practice
Science has confirmed, time and again, the many health benefits of the physical practice of yoga. While there is value in this, much of yoga’s impact lies in the less quantifiable way that the practice makes you feel: Strong when you press up into Plank or lift into Handstand. Liberated when a twist offers release and relief. Exhilarated the first time you lean forward into Crow.
At any moment in time, you can turn to pranayama to calm your jangled nerves. When things are unsettled in life, you can turn to meditation to help you find balance. Every day, as you interact with the people around you, there are ways to practice generosity, kindness, honesty, and all of the other principles that are at the root of yoga philosophy.
Whether you’re sweating it out in a hot yoga class, holding for dear life in Yin, or resting flat out in Savasana, your practice becomes an extension and an expression of who you are. Every visit to your mat is effectively practicing how you show up to life. And you know as well as we do that yoga’s greatest benefit may be in how it helps you be the person you want to be.
What brings you to the mat?
Everyone comes to yoga for their own reasons, but our motivations tend to have a few things in common: We want to feel strong and flexible; we want to find a sense of balance and a little (or a lot of) peace. Yoga gives us all of that—in more than a few ways. Throughout the next four weeks, we’ll explore how yoga helps you—and us—live the lives we envision for ourselves.
You’ve experienced how yoga can help ease your tight muscles and achy joints and make everyday movement a little easier. Just as a consistent yoga practice leads to subtle and incremental changes throughout your physical body, flexibility also means being open to new ways of seeing things: being willing to compromise in relationships, allowing others to have a different experience from you without judging them, letting yourself sleep if you’re tired rather than dragging yourself to the studio for the umpteenth 6 am class this week. Overall, flexibility is being less perfectionistic and more patient—with yourself and others.
Flexibility Week: September 4-10
When you hold a yoga pose, you challenge your muscles in order to strengthen them. In a similar fashion, you also strengthen your concentration and perhaps even your ability to overcome the voice of self-doubt.
Strength can feel invincible yet graceful at the same time, like the way you feel when you hang your head back in Wild Thing. , Remind yourself of that feeling when you want to shrink in a challenging life situation. If you falter, remember how long you practiced that pose before you felt confident in it, and gather strength from that.
Strength Week: September 11-17
The lessons we learn when we practice balance poses mirror so much of what we need to understand in life: Find your center. Trust your core. Adjust your position. Be willing to sway and fall and try again until you find your equilibrium. Repeat.
There’s also the balance you strike each day between your devotion to loved ones and your commitment to work. Between building healthy boundaries and remaining open-hearted. Between fighting for what you believe in and deciding to let go. Yoga is the practice of quiet perseverance that can lead you to inner equipoise.
Balance Week: September 18-24
Many of us come to yoga looking for a remedy for the chaos in our lives. When something is lost or broken, or our world seems to be spinning out of control, the mat is our respite. We practice how to be so attuned to our bodies and focused on our breath that we can lessen the grip of our thoughts. Or we can simply curl up in Child’s Pose or rest in Savasana.
The fullness of yoga, known as the Eight Limbs, also encourages quiet mindfulness—turning within, focusing our attention, finding stillness in meditation. This practice can help you find your quiet center within–even when the noise and busyness of life are swirling all around you.
Calm Week: September 25-30
Soothe your body and quiet your mind with a calming practice on IG Live. Check this space for details.
This content was originally published here.