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The Benefits of Yoga No One Told You About


It's no secret that the benefits of yoga transcend just getting a great body. Regularly attending your yoga class can transform the rest of your life, too—even if you get prickly when your teacher starts talking about the spiritual side of things. The fact is, you don't have to sign on to any big philosophy to get the mental benefits of yoga (although you certainly can). Just keep doing the moves and paying attention, and don't be surprised when things start to shift in your life off the mat. Discover 5 of the best things yoga can teach you:

1. Patience. You aren't going to be able to do every single pose as soon as you start showing up to class; it takes persistence and self-confidence. Understanding that is the key to unlocking this benefit of yoga. Don't get mad at yourself if you fall out of crow pose or can't hold yourself up in headstand. Tell yourself that you have the ability to do whatever pose that you find difficult. Look forward to the next class to try again or see if you can hold it longer. Sooner or later, you'll see that this same determination will follow you outside the studio. You may find yourself taking the time to do things right, or not getting upset at yourself for finding an error in your work.

2. Acceptance. Accepting your level in class enables you to accept your place in the world. The power of yoga? It reminds you—in both—that if you don't like where you are, you have to work to make a change.

3. Dedication. You're not going to get stronger, be able to do more advanced poses, or reap the benefits of yoga unless you show up to class regularly. Once you make a commitment, you'll notice how you're following through with your plans and your goals—you know, all the things you said you'd do but never got around to.

4. Kindness. By listening to yourself and knowing your limitations, you're doing your body good. Your ego is the villain that tells you that you should feel embarrassed for your shortcomings. But if you're not strong enough to do a handstand, don't do one. Instead, work on building your arm strength so that you'll be able to do one in the future. By being nicer to yourself in class, you may find that you won't be so hard on yourself in the real world when you slip up. Plus, you'll be likely to interact with others more often with a smile on your face, and that's contagious.

5. Focus. Yoga is all about turning off your intrusive thoughts. To be in tune with your body, you can't be thinking about that email you have to write, that friend you have to call, or what you're going to have for dinner. You won't be able to reap the full benefits of yoga unless you're completely focused and aware of every muscle in your body. Once you are able to free yourself from your thoughts in class, you'll find yourself more focused on that project you've been working on, because you've learned to avoid the distractions your thoughts tempt you with. So play with your antennae to find a clear connection, then practice keeping the static off.

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