The most effective way to change.
What do you want in your life that you're currently not experiencing?
Do you want to feel better in your body, more rested, and less tense?
Do you want to be calmer, less reactive, and more capable of navigating challenges?
Do you want to have more confidence, clarity, and spaciousness in your days and life?
These are the things I hear from the smart, competent humans I connect with about working together.
They want to change their life for the better, perhaps like you? I mean who doesn't to some extent?
And they have tried. The typical list includes exercise, getting more sleep, reading self-help books, meditation, visualization, journaling, counseling, and medicating. What have you tried?
Maybe you’ve tried and made some progress, but feel like it isn’t enough or isn’t quite right, and like most of my clients right before they decide to work with me, you feel stuck. This is usually when we stop trying.
What if there was just one thing you could do to get what you want that worked no matter what you want or what you've already tried?
Yoga—the most effective way to change your life for the better is with yoga.
Listen, I know yoga is not a panacea but stay with me, I’m going to explain why it's the most effective way to change your life for the better.
First, it’s important to know that yoga is waaay more than just a physical exercise you do on a mat in stretch pants.
Yoga is an entire system of philosophical wisdom and physical, breathing, and mental practices that originated more than 5,000 years ago.
- 10 behavioral guidelines,
- more than 1,000 variations of physical postures,
- dozens of breathing and meditation techniques, as well as,
- countless different methods of applying or practicing all of it.
The system of yoga is often described as a tree with 8-limbs. Here's an illustration of that.
Two of these limbs, yama and niyama, are the behavioral guidelines, of which there are 5 each of what to practice doing and what to practice not doing.
Just one limb, asana, includes all the physical postures.
One limb is pranayama, the breathing practices, and there are 3 limbs dedicated to mental techniques, pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana. Dhyana is meditation.
The 8th limb of yoga, samadhi, is an ever-deepening connection to your true nature, some call it bliss.
This system exists to help us experience harmony as individuals which is how we will achieve peace on Earth.
With this entire, time-tested system of insights and practices in mind, there are 3 main ways yoga is the most effective way to change your life for the better.
Incorporating yoga into your life helps you shift patterns you’ve developed over time.
Our patterns are simply ways of thinking, feeling, and doing we repeat so our brain puts them on auto-pilot. We all have a lot of them.
We have patterns that are helpful like brushing our teeth, reading, and driving. And we have patterns that are detrimental, like slouching over our phones, pessimism, and doubting ourselves.
In my opinion, the most detrimental pattern we can have is negative self-talk. This is because the story you tell yourself in your mind is how you experience your life. Full stop.
When you stretch your body, you learn how to take a new physical shape and because the body and mind work together, taking a new physical shape requires a shift toward mental openness.
Practiced consistently, postures (even super simple ones) teach you to overcome physical, emotional, and psychological obstacles (like negative self-talk) that prevent you from flourishing.
Yoga also teaches you how to be more purposeful in your decision-making.
You must deliberately practice, and even though it can be very simple, you move in a specific way, you breathe in a specific manner, and you consciously focus your attention.
Being mindful and intentional about your practice, naturally helps you become more mindful and intentional in your life because you develop a deepening sense of being more in sync with yourself.
For example, when you pay attention to your breath, you automatically become more aware of the present moment, how your physical body feels, the state of your mind, and what emotions you're experiencing.
This directly leads to being more conscious of how your choices affect your experience. How slouching is connected to feeling uninspired or defeated, and how pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Conversely, as you develop a deepening sense of being more in sync with yourself, you begin to see how your attitude can shift a challenging situation into an opportunity to focus on what you want.
Yoga changes you for the better by revealing the person you’re capable of being.
Your practice cultivates a focus on your ability to overcome challenges and, even if only fleetingly at first, the bliss of each small victory.
For example, when you practice a mantra, which is a group of words you repeat, you may only be able to concentrate for a moment before getting distracted.
But if you start again, and keep going, you gain concentration and begin to see how a shift happens with each practice, you develop a calm determination.
This carries over into your life by helping you continually face whatever is keeping your attention diverted from making the changes you want and being your best self.
Yoga changes your life by continually deepening your connection to your potential and your ability to master the patterns, choices, and obstacles that are your unique way to realize that potential.
One of two things will happen: either you begin to experience the positive effects of yoga in your life or you stop practicing yoga.
So how do you take this system of yoga that’s highly effective in changing your life for the better and make it a part of your daily routine so that you actually get the transformative benefits?
There are 2 very important things I want you to know:
- Despite the comprehensive nature of yoga, you can get life-changing benefits in small, simple steps. In fact, it’s really the only way you will.
Try taking a new shape with your body right now. Bring your arms overhead and hold opposite elbows. (Or forearms or wrists.) You’ll immediately notice the ways in which you are holding tension in your shoulders and can work on your ability to relax them. Take another breath or two here and deliberately practice softening into this shape. Now put the opposite forearm on top. Take a few breaths and just let yourself be here, noticing.
- Even though yoga can be surprisingly simple, to get the benefits, you do actually have to do it.
You do not have to go to an hour-long class, roll out a mat, or wear anything in particular, but you do have to willfully apply the wisdom and practices to your life.
I recommend you do this in small ways, throughout the day as part of your existing routine. For example, use your time in the shower to practice breath awareness. Or take a 1-minute break from hunching over your laptop to stretch your shoulders. Or recite a mantra while you’re making dinner or washing dishes.
Simple and consistent is what works to change your life for the better.
But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself by choosing one simple thing to do as part of your existing routine and committing to do it consistently.
This is precisely what we do in Make Peace with Stress.