3 Ways Yoga Can Help Shift and Change Your Mindset
What does your current daily mindset practice look like?
Journaling, reading inspirational books or reading out affirmations?
Or perhaps you don’t have a daily mindset practice in place right now.
Today, I would like to invite you to start experimenting with your daily mindset practice by integrating 5 elements of Yoga:
- Physical Yoga poses (which is called Asana in Sanskrit)
- Breathwork (Pranayama)
- Soundwork (Mantra)
- Meditation (Dhyana)
- Yogic wisdom (Yamas & Niyamas)
…to shift and change your mindset to create a place from which you can grow.
I know I’m a little biased here because I’m a Yoga teacher and a long-term Yoga practitioner. But I have experimented with many different daily mindset practices from several mindset coaches, teachers and experts in the past.
But nothing really has worked for me, until I started incorporating the 5 elements of Yoga into my daily life.
Yoga is considered a philosophy, combined with science and art.
It’s also a discipline, a way of life and an integrated system of education for the mind, body and soul.
The word Yoga, derived from Sanskrit. The root “yuj” can be translated in English as “unity” or “yoke”.
This indicates that the purpose of Yoga is to unite ourselves with our highest nature.
Until this “unity”, or re-integration takes place, we will continue to identify ourselves only with our limitations – that’s limitations of the mind, the body and the senses.
And this is why we usually feel incomplete and limited and suffer with feelings such as fear, insecurity, disappointment, and separation, as we’ve separated ourselves from the experience of the whole and ultimately of “Life” itself.
Yoga helps us to access and connect with our True Self so we can think and act in a more purposeful and meaningful way in our day to day lives.
Yoga has been the most powerful tool in my life & business.
Yoga teaches us to be in the present moment and as you practice Yoga, whether through physical practice and spiritual practice, you are creating changes in your body & mind and will begin to reshape your attitudes, views and thoughts.
Yoga is all about self-discovery and letting go of things (thoughts, emotions, actions) that do not serve you in order for self-growth and realization.
So here are the 3 ways Yoga can help you shift and change your mindset for self-awareness and personal growth.
#1 Yoga helps you become more flexible – physically & mentally
I often hear people say that they are not flexible enough to start yoga.
Well, I was not flexible at all when I started yoga and I wouldn’t call myself a super flexible Yogi even now.
Though I am definitely more flexible in some parts of my body, there is a certain part of my body that needs more work, especially my upper back and shoulders (right side in particular) because of my Scoliosis (curvature of spine), which is a typical physical characteristic of Vata Dosha types (I’m a Vata Pitta!).
(If you don’t know your Dosha – your Ayurvedic mind-body type, make sure to take my Dosha quiz and find out your Dosha!)
For example my upper back can often be very tight and I sometimes struggle to hold even a gentle backbend for 5 breaths – which usually happens when my Vata is out of balance.
And, interestingly some days I can execute backbends with no issues at all.
When my body didn’t move the way I wanted, I used to get really frustrated and I even feel very emotional about it. I didn’t know what this meant until my Yoga teacher explained what it is all about. I honestly thought that I was just so inflexible and just not good at Yoga!
Inflexible mind, inflexible body.
So if you are thinking that you are not flexible enough to start yoga, your mind is also being inflexible.
For example, when you see an advanced student doing a handstand, what are your instant thoughts?
“I can’t do that”
“Not in my lifetime”
When I was just starting yoga, I had the same thoughts. My thoughts were so negative that I didn’t even want to try those scary postures that my teachers made me do in the class.
When I went to do my Yoga teacher training in 2014, that all changed.
I tried every single posture in the Ashtanga Primary Series. Even though I couldn’t do a posture properly, I learned not to worry about what other people can do and what I can do. The more I practiced yoga, the lighter my body felt, as did my mind.
This is because I was releasing all the tension and frustrations out of my body, by stretching, squeezing and opening my chest and hips. Slowly, my back started to feel less tight and my hips started to open up a bit more.
The tightness or the lower back pain can be related to repression or restriction in your life or issues from the past and the hips can be related to general frustration or trapped emotions (both related to the Sacral Chakra which is associated with the Earth Element and Kapha).
The tightness of shoulders and neck can be related to suppressing your truth, expression and creativity (related to the Throat Chakra which is associated with the Ether (Space) Element and Vata).
Whether you decide to go to your first Yoga session, or are deepening your practice, take a moment in each Yoga posture with an intention to release that tension or emotion.
In this way, you are enabling your trapped energy to be released and you will realize your body is lighter and so is your mind.
#2 Regular meditation helps you create more self-awareness
Meditation is the practice of sustained voluntary attention.
The keywords here are sustained and voluntary!
Meditation is a way of training the mind to be stable and sustained, instead of jumping from one object to the next.
The most important misconception and the myth of meditation is that meditation is about getting calm and happy. And that is actually not true!
Meditation is about changing our perspective and changing our relationship with our mind.
If you already practice daily meditation that’s great!
Though for many of us, meditation can be quite challenging and a difficult practice to integrate into our daily life. But your meditation practice doesn’t have to be long!
It can be as quick as 5 minute. Taking the time to “do nothing” and sit in focused silence gets us closer in touch with our minds as well as our bodies.
Too often we direct our concentration towards the outside world.
In meditation, we direct our awareness inwards and learn to identify negative thought patterns and emotions and learn to work through and eliminate those feelings that no longer serve us.
How to start bringing more meditation practice into your life?
The best way to start your daily meditation practice is to set a time to meditate every day. I find it easier to meditate right after my breathing exercise (Pranayama) in the morning.
Choose a suitable time for yourself and stick to it.
Set your timer and start with 3 minutes of meditation and build up from there, to maybe 5 or 10 minutes over the coming weeks.
Sitting crossed leg is the best for meditation because it keeps your spine straight, but it’s not for everyone. Try to find a comfortable way to sit, either on a chair or the floor with a straight spine.
To begin with, just relax and focus on your breath – inhale count to four and exhale count to four. Try not to let your mind wander (and it will!). If it does, gently bring it back to focusing on your breath.
Stop and breath – mindfulness meditation
A few times during the day try to stop for 1 minute and just breathe. Do this at work, at home, or during your commute.
By breathing consciously, your body and mind start to relax and we can enter into the present moment.
The next step is to then let go of all your tension, negative thoughts, pains and worries.
The most important part of mindfulness meditation practice is to try again and again to be in the present moment and let go of unnecessary worries and thoughts so we can remain calm and see things clearly and make better choices throughout the day.
#3 Integrating Yoga into your daily life
In the West, many people practice Yoga as a physical practice.
This was true for me when I started practicing Yoga. I didn’t understand the spiritual element of Yoga and I would go to a class to enjoy stretching.
I started to connect with the spiritual element of Yoga when I started my Yoga teacher training.
I never used to teach the spiritual element in my class as I wanted my students to enjoy practicing yoga as a physical practice first. But I have been incorporating more and more in the past years and in my Pathway to Dharma program, my students learn how to integrate Yamas & Niyamas into their daily lives.
I do believe that the spiritual side will come to you naturally when you are ready, when the time is right.
If you are new to integrating Yogic wisdom into your daily life, I recommend starting from integrating one or two Yamas into your everyday life.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, he mentions the Eightfold Path which is called Ashtanga in Sanskrit.
“ashta” means ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ means ‘limb’.
These eight limbs or steps act as guidelines for living a life of personal fulfillment that will also benefit society as well.
The first limb is called Yamas.
Yamas are the 5 Yogic behavioral principles and values, which are essentially Dharmic principles of right living for both personal and social wellbeing.
These 5 Yamas are:
- Ahimsa (non-harming/non-violence)
- Satya (truthfulness)
- Asteya (non-stealing)
- Brahmacharya (balance & moderation)
- Aparigraha (awareness of abundance & fulfillment)
Here are some of the blog posts where you can learn how to integrate these 5 Yamas into your daily life.
You can read more about how integrating Yamas can help you live a more sustainable way of life.
You can read more about how you can practice Aparigraha (awareness of abundance & fulfillment).
You can read more about how you can practice Asteya (non-stealing).
I hope you now have a better understanding of how Yoga can help you shift and change your mindset and are inspired to integrate Yoga into your daily life!