October is here and that means a new business quarter, spring, back-to-school and warmer weather.
Most of our team here at the Australasian Sustainable Wellness Academy have been practicing yoga for our own personal wellness for a decade (or more for some of us!) now. For me personally, and like many others from my generation, yoga entered my life initially via the always-inspiring, Jane Fonda. I particularly enjoyed her memoir about her personal life and her resilience and strength of character in the face of all the naysayers about yoga at that time. However, I digress.
It wasn’t until however, I was working in Asia, that the real power of yoga exceeded my expectations. As my childhood consisted of living in a compound in Papua New Guinea and working in the family business during non-school hours, sports and many aspects of physical fitness did not play a role in my daily life. The discovery of yoga was one of the truly transformational aspects of my life. I’m not a yoga teacher or guru by any means however, what I am sharing is from my own personal experience. Not only has yoga enhanced my physical health and vitality, it has also led to greater mental clarity, deeper and more effective relationships, both within myself and with others, in my personal and in my professional leadership roles. In addition, it has also facilitated an important sense of connection with community.
What about you? Have you tried yoga? Experienced the benefits of the practice? Whether you are a novice or a seasoned practitioner, I’d love for you to expand your awareness of the many long-term benefits of a yoga practice, both in life and leadership.
The benefits of yoga include:
1. Improve flexibility. Yoga can improve flexibility not only of your body but also of your mindset. While many yoga poses help to lengthen and stretch your muscles in a safe and effective way, the practice of yoga also teaches you how to become emotionally flexible. Yoga can help us deal with thoughts and emotions that don’t serve us. Rather than judging yourself for having them, you can learn to simply acknowledge them and that they don’t serve you and then let them go. You can also learn how to adapt to new situations as well as how to overcome responses or thinking that have become habitual and that may lead to negative self-talk that again, does not serve you.
2. Perfect your posture. Our lifestyles today do not strengthen our posture. To the contrary, they wreak havoc on our posture. We sit in front of computers all day, drive in cars and ride in aeroplanes with compact seats and limited legroom. Over time, our spines become curved and our shoulders rounded. We hold our heads (which weigh, on average, 10 to 11 pounds) in a forward position even more hours a day now that we’re looking at our mobile phones more often. A regular yoga practice can help counter the negative effects of these lifestyle choices on our bodies. First, you learn to have better awareness of your body. Secondly, the asana practice will help you to develop a strong, engaged core as well as a strong spine. Good habits take time to build up. By practicing yoga two to three times per week, you will begin to feel better physically and to notice better posture.
3. Build and maintain strong bones. Our bones weaken as they age, and this is particularly an issue for women. There are 1 million Australians diagnosed with osteoporosis—and over three-quarters of them are female. One out of every two women aged 50 and over will break a bone because of osteoporosis. Research shows that a regular yoga practice can help prevent this age-related weakening of our bones. Yoga can also help avoid falls, which are a great risk to older adults. One in four adults aged 65 and older report falling each year. A regular yoga practice can help to improve balance and flexibility, which is essential for avoiding falls that lead to injuries.
4. Develop greater mental clarity. Poor mental clarity is one of the major causes for low productivity in the workplace. I definitely notice the difference in my own productivity when I lack mental clarity. It takes me longer to do a task that would normally be quicker and without challenges. I make more mistakes and can start double-guessing myself, therefore taking even longer to complete the project. Is your productivity limited by a lack of mental clarity? Pranayama (a set of breathing practices) is one of the oldest and most time-tested methods that can help you to improve your focus. Pranayama creates a soothing effect on the nervous system. It quietens your busy mind; this inner calm is the foundation for clarity of mind.
5. Build resilience to stress. Stress and tension often lead to shallow, rapid breathing, which can lead to more anxiety. Yoga can help you learn to train your mind to focus your attention on one thing at a time, which calms the anxiety of chronic busyness in our constantly ‘switched on’ world. Yoga helps you to breathe more effectively and efficiently through the use of diaphragmatic breathing. Yoga helps to relax the body. Certain postures have a deeply calming effect, particularly forward bends and inversions. Finally, yoga helps to foster a mind-body connection, leading to a better sense of balance and ease.
6. Improve sleep quality. It is recommended that adults get seven or more hours of sleep a night, but, according to the Australasian Sleep Association, more than a third of Australians fall short of that. Since yoga calms the mind and relieves tension in the body, the practice can be an effective natural sleep remedy. According to the US National Sleep Foundation, yoga can also improve the quality of your sleep, especially if you suffer from insomnia. When people affected by insomnia practice yoga on a daily basis, they fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and return to sleep more quickly if they wake up in the middle of the night.
7. Ease chronic pain. One in five Australians now lives with chronic pain. This prevalence is expected to increase as Australia’s population ages – by 2050, as many as 5 million of us will likely have severe, disabling pain. Chronic pain impacts people’s ability to work and to perform their daily activities, and often creates a massive emotional burden for pain sufferers and their families. It is estimated to cost Australia more than $34 billion every year. Most of the pharmacological treatments for chronic pain are opioid-based and highly addictive. Yoga and meditation have been shown to have potent pain-relieving effects on the brain. In yoga, the increased flow of oxygen to the brain and muscles improves your energy levels and sense of well-being. Practicing yoga on a regular basis may affect your response to pain, decreasing your level of perceived suffering. In fact, yoga can teach you to focus your mind in ways that actually support change in your relationship and your response to pain.
8. Strengthen Relationships. Yoga helps you to nurture your relationship with yourself. A regular yoga practice helps you to develop compassion and greater mindfulness. These attributes—coupled with yoga’s philosophical emphasis on avoiding harm to others, being authentic, and taking only what you need—can lead to improved and more sustainable relationships in your personal and professional life, not to mention the benefits to community and the environment.
Yoga practice encourages us to exist in the present moment and to live in a more mindful, conscious, collaborative and connected way. From this place, we can experience improved health and wellness within ourselves. From a business perspective, when we have a group of individuals collaborating from a state of good health and wellness, we are more likely to achieve sustainable business success.
If you practice yoga, keep it up. If you are considering the practice, give it a try as the benefits are many!
Until we connect next ….. Live and Lead Well!
The Australasian Sustainable Wellness Academy’s holistic wellness approach includes nationally recognised training and development programs that kickstart and infuse wellness for sustainable business success. Our programs empower your organisation to create a healthier, happier workplace by establishing a strong framework and providing the tools, skills and support for employees to make healthy lifestyle practices commonplace.
Contact us for more information on our wellness approach for organisations.
Angela Derks, ND is the Founder and CEO of the Australasian Sustainable Wellness Academy (ASWA) - the award winning accredited leader of online staff wellbeing programs and leadership courses. Her life’s work is helping people achieve optimal health, wellbeing and life satisfaction through skills-based learning and personal leadership practices. She is the lead course developer of the nationally recognised Diploma of Workplace Wellness qualification, for relevant skills to effectively integrate evidence-based wellness into lives and organisations. ASWA's wellness integration approach empowers and enables individuals and organisations to achieve wellbeing and performance for sustainable success.