Yoga as a therapy for body and mind

This article was written by my dear friend Karina Schönberger. I met her during my time in Portugal and I consider her one of my soul sisters on this Earth. She is a talented woman from Berlin with skills in different fields. She will make magic happen with her company Bow & Arrow, she will write you mindblowing content as a freelance copywriter in Lisbon and also she can give you insider tips about living in Portugal.
I hope you will enjoy her article about using yoga as a therapy method. In my opinion, this is a very interesting topic to talk and read about as yoga has become quite popular in the past years around the world and she addresses significant points in this article. I had the chance in Portugal to teach her in yoga classes, but she also taught me a lot during my time there as she is a strong, inspiring, confident and extraordinary personality with an amazing energy you will immediately feel around her.

Yoga as a therapy for body and mind

by Karina Schönberger

Especially in big cities I see a particular phenomenon: yoga becomes a trend. Thanks to Instagram and co. the philosophy of yoga is spread around the world so that even Vladimir Putin has added the downward facing dog to his exercising list. If you ask me, I don’t mind it at all. It’s like with all the good things in life: they are unlimited, endless and there’s enough for everybody. The more the merrier.     

Indeed there are many people who practice yoga for the sake of their physical benefits without knowing or caring too much about the side effects that yoga has. They want to lose weight, to stay in shape or just “let go” from daily stress. And there’s absolutely nothing critical to say about this. The result matters, I would say. At the end of the day it leads people to become healthier and more fulfilled in life, no matter what their motives are.

For me personally yoga is so much more than just a physical exercise. It’s a combination of asanas (postures and poses), pranayama (regulated breath) and meditation that has a high impact on the body-mind-connection. It’s a path leading towards enlightenment, helping you to overcome your daemons as well as your ego.   

Let’s be specific: numbers that prove the impact that yoga has on your wellbeing

There is no space for neglecting that yoga has an impact on both your physical and mental state - those days are over. Many scientific studies prove that calming down your mind and exercising with the help of yoga will allow you to achieve physical and mental benefits.

Let’s go deeper into that. A study with participants over 40 years declares that the ones who practiced yoga for more than five years had lower blood pressure and pulse rate than the ones who did not. Crazy right?

Another study with 218 participants divided the attendees in two groups, both groups had to do exercises that increase their stress level. The group with the people who practiced yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than the ones who didn’t. Yoga teaches our bodies how to deal with stress. Our body stores the breathing and relaxation techniques in the body memory and applies them when they’re needed.  

A further study proved that 135 seniors increased their quality of life, mood and fatigue by practicing yoga for six months. There is even a study that accompanied women who were undergoing chemotherapy because of breast cancer. The results show a decrease of side effects like nausea or vomiting.  

Okay, I hope I was able to convince you that you actually do your body a big favour to practice yoga on a regularly basis. But that’s just one side of the coin. A healthy body is based on a clear and calm mind, right? The World Health Organization estimates that depression disorder is the heaviest burden when it comes to all mental and behavioural disorders. We all know at least one person who struggles with that temporary state of being. Very often psychiatrists try to battle it with antidepressant medication that can make people dependent and influence their feelings. But there’s good news! Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine found out that yoga at least twice a week will have a significant impact on reducing depressive symptoms. Furthermore there are a big number of other studies proving that a regular yoga practice reduces both anxiety and depression. By reducing the experienced stress, yoga has a direct influence on the stress response system what in return affects the physiological system, by reducing the heart rate and lowering the blood pressure. What instantly leads us to the body-mind-cycle.

The spiritual awakening of the body: knowing your needs

The western world doesn’t teach a lot about consciousness towards our bodies. We perceive them as given and don’t pay too much attention to its real needs. In fact we store trauma and pain in our bodies. Yoga can heal these traumas and will make you feel lighter and energized, like somebody just lifted a rock off your shoulders, one that you were constantly carrying. The asanas, the breathing and the relaxation will help you to reconnect with your body, to feel and appreciate it, going way beyond the communication of “I am hungry” or “I am getting cold”. Practicing yoga is so much more than an unconscious downward facing dog. It’s being aware of how much your body can accomplish and how much potential it has. It will help you to see your body as a holy being that gets you throughout the day – day by day. That’s what people call the spiritual awakening of the body. With yoga, to know and carefully to listen to what your body wants will become a daily practice for you.  

Yoga as a long-term prevention and medication without side effects

All these numbers, studies and experiences are real and they are out there – for everybody. I couldn’t help but wonder why some people are still smiling about yoga or why yoga quite often dismiss it as an esoteric hocus-pocus. Maybe because it’s easier to take a bunch of pills in case of high blood pressure than to overcome your inner laziness and actually do practice yoga twice a week. Of course the results won’t come from one day to another, it takes time as it is a healing process, but the effect will be long-term, preventive and freeing. It will allow people to feel their bodies again, strengthening their inner powers and being independent from doctors and pills. So what if we see yoga as a medicine or as a prevention mechanism that can help us to live a healthier, more fulfilled life and be in contact with ourselves?

I will keep dreaming of a world like this.

This is Karina at the beginning of this year in Estoril, Portugal, coming for a yoga class.

This is Karina at the beginning of this year in Estoril, Portugal, coming for a yoga class.