You know yoga is good for you. On a physical level, you stretch and strengthen your muscles, which has its many benefits. But once you’ve been doing yoga awhile—even as a casual attendee—you develop more than strong, lean muscles. You develop body awareness.
You may know body awareness as the scientific term, ‘proprioception’—which means to sense your body’s motion, position and equilibrium. But emotions, wellbeing and your relationship with others are also a part of your body awareness.
In yoga, you learn to adjust your body position again and again. You get good at listening to your body. And that’s a skill you can take with you into your daily life that empowers you to make better choices.
What You Eat
We all feel hunger. It’s a noticeable pang that calls out throughout the day. And we have no problem eating all kinds of food to silence that call.
Shortly after eating, your body absorbs everything you’ve offered it. If you’re eating sugar-laden treats, your body will surge with energy and then crash into a groggy abyss. If you eat a bowl of salad, your body will feel good, energized and vibrant.
Most of the time, we make this decision with our minds. You might think, “What should I eat?” But for the experienced yogi, your body tells you exactly what it wants. And you’re able to hear its yearning before you even head to the kitchen.
How You Sit, Stand and Walk
One of the main ways yoga empowers you to make better choices is through body mechanics. That is what you do with your body when you’re sitting, standing or walking.
After a couple hundred classes, you know to tuck your tailbone, pull in your abs and pull your head back. You can’t help but take that with you on your errands.
You might find yourself standing for a long period of time at work waiting to speak with someone. The next thing you know you’re planting your feet into the ground, straightening your spine and lifting your chin.
If you sit at a desk all day, then you might notice yourself uncrossing your legs (and undoing a decades-old habit) while you sit tall and relax onto your sits bones.
Or while you’re walking, you’ll notice yourself standing taller with each stride. You might even draw your belly button to your spine and strengthen your core for an extra strong hustle to the copy machine.
How you open doors and drive your car will never be the same. You no longer haphazardly twist a knob or turn the steering wheel. You consciously engage your forearm and upper arm muscles and ensure the stability of the shoulder joint.
And that’s only in a single day.
How You Interact With Others
Body language plays an important role in communication. And years of yoga prime you to be an excellent communicator in the language of the body.
In your interactions, you’ll find yourself leaning in, turning towards someone or nodding more frequently. You choose to be present and practice eye contact. And just as you’ve learned to listen to your body, you learn to listen to other people.
These small and subtle choices influence how others see you. And they influence the quality of your relationships. You can make profound shifts in any relationship by choosing to enact the wisdom and awareness of body language and presence with others.
How You Treat Yourself
Body awareness means you’re in tune with your physical and emotional body. The two live side-by-side so it’s easy to gain awareness of both at the same time.
When a posture is hard, you have hard emotions that come with it. You’re encouraged to be aware, to honor and to listen to them. But you’re also advised to be gentle and loving as you move past them and reach the edge of your comfort zone.
This same practice meets you in your daily life. When you’re in a tough situation at work or you’re in a disagreement with a friend or family member. Your practice of compassion seeps into how you treat yourself during tough times.
Every day the words you hear your teachers say lingers in your mind. You could almost repeat them back in perfect form. And you do, but through your body and your choices.
You always have a choice, but yoga empowers you to make better choices every day.