On the eve of International Yoga Day, we connected with Aarti Chawla – a Yoga Mentor. She explains the health benefits of yoga and how practicing yoga can change our lives for good.
It is said that yoga helps us achieve a balance between body, mind and soul. How would you describe the benefits of yoga?
The benefits of yoga are many and it is true that yoga helps us achieve a balance between body, mind and soul. Practicing yoga helps us in maintaining our overall health – physical, emotional and spiritual. Let us try to understand this better.
Regular yoga practice can provide physical and mental health benefits
The practice of Yoga is focused on enhancing our body’s natural immunity for better health and promotes self – healing. It helps us to achieve a feeling of wellness. It helps to strengthen not only our body, but our mind as well. Yoga increases our sense of awareness and harmony of both the mind and body.
There are numerous schools of yoga, in fact there are more than 100 types or forms of yoga that are practiced around the world. But the core approach of all of them is to include breathing exercises, meditation and practicing of postures (also known as poses or asanas), that allow you to stretch and flex all the muscles in your body.
Following are the physical benefits of yoga, practiced in any form:
- weight reduction
- increased flexibility
- protection from injury
- improved energy and vitality
- improved athletic performance
- maintaining a balanced metabolism
- improved cardio and circulatory health
- improved respiration and lung strength
- increased muscle strength and body toning
Apart from the physical benefits, practice of yoga works wonders for our mental and emotional health as well. Increased levels of concentration and patience, reducing stress and anxiety, boosting your confidence and maintaining a positive outlook in life are some of the key benefits obtained through the practice of yoga for our mental and emotional wellbeing. Yoga is a complete exercise that focuses on the overall development of the human being.
How has yoga helped you personally in your years of practice?
My rendezvous with Yoga began in the year 2009, when I was trying to recover from an internal injury of the nervous system. I was suffering from not just physical discomfort, but going through mental and emotional turmoil as well. Yoga helped in getting my life back on track. I not only recovered from my internal injuries, but I also witnessed a change in the way I think and developed a positive outlook about life. Adopting the practice of yoga as part of my lifestyle and daily routine has helped me reconnect with those around me and make beautiful new connections.
Is it possible for anyone to start doing yoga or does it require any level of fitness to begin?
You do not require any special level of fitness or any other requirement to begin your yoga practice. Since there are so many different kinds of yoga practices, it is possible for anyone to start doing it. Even if you have never exercised in your life or have always been a “couch potato”, yoga is a good way to begin your fitness journey. It does not matter what shape or size you are because the practice of yoga allows room for accommodating everyone by modifying the asanas to suit your requirement. It is an effective practice for people with ailments like joint troubles, back and neck problems and other physical discomforts. Regular practice also addresses issues like managing PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), sleep disorders and even digestive issues.
I had been a student of various yoga styles and in my experience, I have found Ashtanga Yoga to be the only form of yoga that can actually heal people at all levels. Hence, my advice to people is to do only Ashtanga Yoga and Ashtanga Surya Namasakar to gain all the benefits of yoga, especially as a beginner. This is a good approach to start with.
What is your core focus as a Yoga Mentor?
As a yoga mentor, I focus a lot of my efforts on cleansing the internal organs through “Ujjayi” (breathing) and stretching the core through “Bandhas” and building the strength through “Asanas”. Apart from that I make sure students do not limit themselves only to the physical level of fitness but extend the practice of yoga to their mind and soul as well. It is very important for me that my students learn how to relax.
Stress management is a key element of my yoga practice. I have personally experienced the ill effects of stress on my mind and body as well as seen the repercussions in a lot of my students. Complaints of back and neck pains, sleeping disorders, frequent headaches, inability to concentrate and even addictions to tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol and other stronger elements can all be triggered due to stress. Daily practice of yoga can be very useful in overcoming these problems by calming the body and mind, relieving chronic stress patterns, initiating clarity in though, building a sense of purpose, feeling healthy and fit and developing a positive attitude in life.
I have included a number of relaxation techniques in my teachings, to help students lessen chronic pains such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome as well as lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. Meditation and breathing exercises are an important part of my yoga practice, aimed at improving mental and emotional wellbeing.
I believe in teaching yoga as a form of body workouts interspersed with meditation and the correct techniques of breathing in order to cleanse the body and mind and make them healthier. I encourage my students by gently nudging them ahead to explore their limits and make an effort to take a small step forward every day.
For me, Yoga is a union of Inner Science and Art which guides us towards the right way of living. And this is what I mentor my students to believe.
This year’s theme for International Yoga Day is “Yoga at home and Yoga with Family.” What asanas can you recommend to practice together as a family?
As we are all experiencing prolonged stays at home, doing yoga at home and with your family is one of the best ways to stay fit, boost your health and come together. According to UNICEF, Yoga is perfectly safe for your children. In fact, kids can practice a number of yoga poses that the adults do and attain the same benefits of flexibility, fitness, mindfulness and relaxation. It is also a good way to constructively channel all their unspent energies. Starting your fitness journey when you are young is a great way to ensure assimilating exercise and health consciousness as part of your lifestyle. So, ‘yoga at home and yoga with family’ is a fantastic way to involve your kids and everyone else at home not just for one day but every day.
What is the message you would like to give readers on International Yoga Day?
My message to the readers on International Yoga Day is “Practice. Practice and practice and you will see all the positivity that comes your way. Wake up every morning, do as much yoga as possible but don’t stop. You may be slow initially but continuous practice will make it easier and faster for you to do the asanas. Don’t give up and make Yoga a part of your life, and you will find that not only good health, but success, fame, happiness and positivity will all find their way to you. “