Lauren Porat is a yoga instructor and the founder of YogaSpark.
This is not a political post. But with the world focusing on political events on a minute-by-minute basis, we are being bombarded with opinions, judgment, and, as a result, negativity. It’s important that we all take a moment to analyze how our minds and bodies feel when we look at our Facebook feeds or when we hear the phrase “with everything that’s going on in the world.” Do you feel a little disheartened and disempowered? Don’t worry; you’re not alone.
With that in mind, let’s take it back a step. Whether your life goal is political action, raising a family, studying science, or any other worthy endeavor (even if you don't have it all figured out just yet), my question is why let current events get in the way of that? You have the power to control your experience. You can literally choose happiness by breathing deeper and reacting wiser. Why go through life being miserable?
If you’re having trouble finding your happiness, here’s why yoga can help: It’s a drug. Believe me, I know. And it’s a really good one because it can help you achieve your life goals while making us all feel better about what’s happening in the world right now. Intrigued to know how? See below for why I think yoga is the answer.
It Teaches Us to Push Boundaries
Yoga is hard. It builds physical strength, stamina, and flexibility at the same time that it builds humility. It forces us to find our edge, peer over it, respect it, but always be pushing that edge forward. It shows us that sometimes pushing our boundaries is a matter of simple, quiet, dedicated, and patient practice. And there is nothing more empowering than that.
It Promotes Self-Awareness and Self-Love
Yoga encourages us to treat ourselves with kindness. We start to notice when we create toxic situations. This can range from the foods we eat to the conversations we have. But compassion toward yourself is contagious. You may notice a trickle-down effect—you leave class feeling great about yourself, so you treat others around you a little bit more kindly. Or you treat your body a little bit more kindly by making healthy selections. Good choices lead to other good choices, and one small action can change the course of our whole day.
It Reminds Us to Be Present
Yoga teaches us to be present, to focus on what’s important and what makes us happy. To honor those long-term goals but to enjoy the journey getting there. This is particularly important as we try to focus on the good times. If you’re thoroughly present, enjoying the happy experiences in your life, you will be less likely to fall prey to focusing on the negative.
It Instills Values of Community and Altruism
Yoga believes that we are all part of the same light. Even if you have a hard time believing this, imagine if we all bought into it, and think about how we would treat each other. Kindness really IS contagious.
It Gives Us Time to Ourselves
Yoga gives you an hour where the outside world is not invading your brain space, where you have permission to let go of the to-do list. This mental quietude is extremely productive. We create space to let go of what’s not serving us, and we let something new in.
It Helps Us Find Peace in the Chaos
Yoga helps us control our reactions and therefore our experiences. Yoga teaches us to observe ourselves, find our breath, and find peace even in challenging moments. Many of the same breathing techniques can be applied in moments of stress. As we miss the last train home or read an article with a viewpoint that we simply do not agree with, focusing on these types of deep diaphragmatic breaths can help slow heart rates, lower blood pressure, and limit stress levels.
It Cultivates Gratitude and Acceptance
Yoga cultivates gratitude. When we can learn to be grateful for all that life has to offer even in challenging times—whether it’s a maddening conversation with your toddler about why he or she really cannot wear their Batman costume to school, watching a particularly infuriating news segment featuring a politician who makes your blood boil, or falling out of a crow pose for the tenth time—we find that nothing can get us truly down for good.
Has yoga helped you through a struggling time? Let us know in the comments.