Even though yoga practiced in the West has been focused more on the postures (or asanas), yoga philosophy is rooted in the development of meaning and purpose. Here are fives ways yoga helps us gain a sense of fulfillment.
1. Research shows that the practice of yoga can help you achieve a more meaningful and grounded sense of well-being.
The ancient practice describes four purusharthas, or fundamental concepts that guide meaning in your life. Yoga has four central purposes:
- dharma (virtue or duty in one’s life purpose),
- artha (prosperity or the creation of a balanced life),
- kama (joy and pleasure), and
- moksha (freedom).
2. Priorities can compete with each other-- yoga acknowledges this complexity.
Sometimes priorities compete with each other– like when you’re having to sacrifice spending time with family (kama) in order to meet a deadline and work late at the office (dharma) or when you have to take a job that you are less passionate about in order to be financial stable. It’s important to find the balance that works for you.
3. Yoga helps you become more self-aware.
Awareness is key so that you can balance your different goals, especially since our needs and priorities are constantly shifting. Becoming in tune with yourself and your direction helps you avoid burnout or detachment.
4. Yoga increases empathy and feelings of compassion, gratitude, and respect.
Yoga has been shown to increase empathy and bring greater feelings of compassion, gratitude, and respect. One study of 124 individuals who practiced yoga at least two times a week found that the extent of yoga experience positively correlated with both more meaning in life and feelings of gratitude. The results suggested that the more you practice yoga, the more you gained a sense of happiness and purpose.
5. Yoga allows us to be fully aware of the entire range of our emotional experiences and to accept them as they are.
Several other studies have shown that more frequently you practice yoga, the more you experience positive emotions, higher satisfaction in life, joy, energy, improved quality of life and greater sense of well-being.
A core component of yoga is not to struggle with the past or plan for the future but to be present in the moment as it exists now. At its heart, yoga acknowledges that our life has experiences that range from happiness to frustration to suffering-- that's allowed. Practicing yoga regularly helps us explore where we are at rather than struggle with where we are not. We can then give ourselves the space to connect to a deeper sense of meaning and find balance that extends beyond the mat.
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