Our lives were meant to be joyful and full of love. Counseling, coaching, energy work and yoga, are all tools that will keep our feet grounded, our minds clear and our hearts grateful.”
When asked about our health, we tend to think of our physical bodies. As humans, we seem to identify more easily with the “physicalness” of our humanity. But in reality, we are more than just our physical form. In the practice of holistic health, our makeup consists of four bodies: the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
When we begin to venture down the path of personal growth, healing old wounds, resolving a trauma or pursuing a grander life that is already satisfying, we look for tools and resources that fit our needs. To reach our true potential and tap into our greatest abilities, we must heal on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
As a yoga teacher (RYT 200) and a holistic counselor, I have had the benefit of integrating and understanding healing on all four levels. It is a phenomenal experience when you can tune into your body, as it sends you messages about your emotional and mental states, leading to a greater awareness of the entirety of the self. When we choose to take that first step to acknowledge ourselves as complete beings and venture into the unknown, having the proper tools is most vital.
Yoga is a perfect practice as it combines healing on all aspects of the body. For the most part, people are comfortable with physical activity, so it seems to be a safer avenue for healing. Yoga can be practiced at your own pace as well, so it gives you a sense of control and individuality. Ashtanga yoga is a fabulous practice that involves the body-mind-spirit of who we are as humans. Anyone looking in on an ashtanga class would not see more than the physical exertion (called the “asana” being presented. Ashtanga heals the entire person.
The best way for me to express this clearly is to define ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga means “eight limbs,” and yoga means “union.”
Personal insights manifest with the regular practice of yoga. Imagine a forest full of trees. Each tree has the same goal, to reach toward the light. We have the same goal, reaching towards enlightenment and self-awareness. The eight limbs of ashtanga are subtle throughout the practice but evident in all aspects of our lives. As a limb of a tree grows when needed, the “limbs” of personal growth sprout when the time is appropriate.
The Eight Limbs (and benefits) of Ashtanga Yoga
Ethical discipline (1), self-observation (2), and concentration (3) are the mental aspects of the practice. Being mindful and in the moment brings awareness to your thoughts and gives them clear direction. On or off the mat, self-awareness is the first step to personal growth. Postures (4) and breath control (5) brings your attention to your physical body.
Our spiritual body is given attention through meditation (6). The statement “We don’t have a spirit. We are spirit. And we have a body,” is worth contemplation. Once you begin connecting to your spirit, you cannot stop yourself from becoming an enlightened, prosperous and joyful being!
As we practice yoga, our emotional body becomes sensitive to the world around us. Ashtanga keeps us attune to our emotions through sense withdrawal (7). We bring our
attention inward, allowing our minds to withdraw from the distractions of the world, focusing only on the present moment. Which leads to a beautiful state called samadhi (8) — a state of joy and peace. Our lives were meant to be joyful and full of love. Counseling, coaching, energy work and yoga, are all tools that will keep our feet grounded, our minds clear and our hearts grateful.
Stress causes 80 percent of illnesses. When you really stop and consider what this means, you clearly see how the state of our minds affects the state of our bodies. When using movement therapy such as yoga with talk therapy, the shifts are so much more significant. When we work the body, we sweat out the physical as well as emotional toxins. Not to mention the endorphin’s released when the body is working. It is your free happy pill! It’s that simple, we feel good when we work out!
The Choice is Yours
We all have a tragic story to tell, sadness that has overwhelmed us, addictions that cripple us or people that hold us down. We, individually, get to choose where we want our hearts, minds, spirits and bodies to dwell – in the chaos of life, the depression and sadness – or will we be a light to ourselves and others so that we may overcome the pains of the physical world and reside in a world that is glorious, full of love, kindness and caring.
What improves your mental health? Tell us about it below!
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