Yoga is a centuries-proven method towards self-realization and well-being. You can interpret the concept of self-real- ization in your own way, yet the concept of well-being is pretty straight-forward: it implies physical and mental health, and everyone has an intuitive understanding of what that feels like!
Most people understand that yoga is good for their bodies. Hence, yoga is consistently becoming more popular and pictures of beautiful and healthy bodies in yoga pos- tures flood the Internet. Yet, when we work on our bodies in the very specific way that yoga encourages, we also work on our minds, training some of the essential life skills that not only help us survive in the modern world, but to prosper in it!. When I refer to the essential life skills that you can train with yoga, I don’t mean the ability to balance on your head or to lie down on nails. I mean the type of life skills that you absolutely have to possess in this day and age, no matter what background you come from, what you do for a living or what you believe in. So what are these 5 essential life skills that you can train with yoga?
• Mental flexibility
• Stress management
During my 15 years of yoga practice, I have seen myself build on these essential life skills and have witnessed this progression in others. I hope to inspire the reader to practice yoga and to consciously direct their yoga practice to help develop these skills, thus allowing them embark on a path of self-reali- zation and well-being.
Focus is the ability to direct the flow of consciousness onto a specific object. In yoga, we use our breath as a main point of focus; help- ing us be aware of the ever-changing mental and physical experiences of the present moment. With time and practice, your ability to focus becomes stronger, having a positive effect on your life. The ability to continuously choose one area of focus among many other stimuli directly determines your ability to learn, perform tasks, and have satisfactory life experiences.
Patience is the ability to wait with tolerance. In yoga, we improve our patience by empha- sizing the process rather than the goal. We perform our postures and other practices without expecting immediate feedback or accomplishment. Since we release our need to achieve an objective, we can enjoy the ex- perience itself. This helps us to tolerate the delay of gratification; allowing us to maintain balance.
Self-control is the ability to inhibit one’s im- pulses, unconscious reactions, or bad habits. In yoga, we learn self-control by becoming aware of our physical and mental patterns, accepting them for being a part of us, and then changing them through an applied ef- fort. The more we apply ourselves towards creating a positive change and inhibiting negative tendencies, the more we become proficient in self-control. Paradoxically, in yoga we try to free ourselves from the self-imposed constrictions of our mind by learning how to control it.
Mental flexibility is the ability to adapt in the light of new information and circum- stances. When we practice yoga, we receive a constant flow of changing information: from our bodies, our minds, our teachers, or other practitioners around us. Based on this feedback, we often need to adjust our physical posture or mental state. This abil- ity to change in the light of circumstances increases our mental flexibility, and even- tually spills over into our daily lives off the mat. Mental flexibility enables us to con- tinuously keep on learning and growing: it helps us to make better decisions, come up with new strategies, and let go of the things that don’t serve us positively.
Stress management is the ability to cope with the demands of daily life. In yoga, we put ourselves under possibly stressful circumstances, such as learning new and challenging poses that make us face our fears and mental blockages. We learn to manage these stressful circumstances by applying a continuous effort despite the perceived difficulties. Through sustained practice, we learn to release our anxieties, becoming increasingly better at respond- ing to the demands of the posture or given circumstances. As we succeed despite the difficulties, we empower ourselves and learn to love to take on challenges in the future.■