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Discover the Spiritual Benefits of Practicing Yoga (1)
11 min read

Beyond the Physical: Discover the Spiritual Benefits of Practicing Yoga

Yoga as a practice has been evolving since its inception, from meditation and breathing exercises into what we now know as yoga today. At the core of all these practices, variations across all yoga traditions and forms of yoga, is the intended goal of liberation, freedom from suffering, or what some may refer to as enlightenment. 

Yoga is fundamentally a spiritual practice. The original intention of this ancient practice was to eliminate suffering in human life. As is clearly stated in verse 1 of the Samkhya Karika (one of yoga’s principal philosophical texts):

“From the torment caused by the three kinds of suffering, a desire arises for inquiry into the means of terminating this suffering.”

What are the Spiritual Reasons Behind the Practice of Yoga?

BurningWheel2023128-1Yoga is not a religion. It’s more like a spiritual science. Contrary to what some may believe, yoga will overlay and complement any religion a practitioner may have. Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and Jews have experienced the physical benefits of yoga while also enhancing their religious and spiritual lives.

Yoga has developed a model through which we can view ourselves as the multifaceted beings we are. We are physical, energetic, psychological, emotional, intelligent, conscious beings. One of the main aspects of yoga is that it works to eliminate suffering at all of these levels—beginning with the physical body.


What are the Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Benefits of Yoga?

Suffering at the physical level could be said to be chronic pain and sickness. It is well-known that one of the most effective preventative measures you can take to reduce pain is through regular, balanced exercise. Yoga asana (physical postures) keeps the muscles, tendons, and ligaments strong and flexible. In addition, regular yoga practice keeps the joints healthy and the organs and cardiopulmonary systems functioning properly. These are the physical benefits of yoga asana practice. Regular exercise can promote positive physical wellness, but it's important to remember that true holistic well-being also encompasses mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.

Focusing solely on the physical might not necessarily lead to deeper fulfillment or connection.
Pranayama (breathing exercises) enable us to focus on the present moment. Pranayama strengthens and regulates the nervous system, helping to balance an individual’s emotional state. At the same time, it gives the individual the tools to manage life’s challenging and stressful moments with grace. Suffering is letting your emotions, choices, and actions control you. Many of our choices and actions stem from fear. We gain agency and control by learning to regulate our nervous system and manage emotions, even strong ones. When we gain agency over our emotions, it is considered a form of liberation, allowing us to respond consciously rather than impulsively.

Then we come to the mental level with the Brain and its constant chatter and fluctuations.

“We’ve become so tied up in our minds that we’ve lost our senses” - Alan Watts.

Many of us spend so much time thinking that we start to believe that we are what we think. However, thoughts are just the brain doing its thing. The brain is an excellent threat detection system. Based on all of its previous experiences, the brain calculates, analyzes, and plans possible future outcomes of the current happenings to identify possible dangers. If we identify as this threat detection system, seeing danger everywhere, without the intervention of our higher intellect and reasoning, is it any wonder that so many of us are constantly stressed, nervous, and anxious?

Concentration, breathing techniques, and meditation practices focus and quiet the mind. Bringing the brain under the control of higher intellectual reasoning.

When the body is healthy, emotions balanced, and the mind is quiet, we can begin to access the spiritual benefits of yoga, which include self-awareness, inner peace, and well-being. One gains a sense of the connectedness of all life and the fundamental rightness in the pattern of everything as it unfolds. 


Do Yoga Poses Have a Spiritual Meaning?

The yoga poses or asanas are based on sacred geometry. The lines and patterns in the poses can also be found in sacred symbols. The deeper fundamental teachings and truths are imbued into how we practice the postures. For example, everything is always done in a balanced way. Equal effort to rest. Equal but opposing force. These teachings show us how to perform the posture properly and teach us fundamental principles of how the universe works and operates. This understanding will ultimately lead to and enhance spiritual growth by installing these experienced teachings into the unconscious mind.

“You have to put the yoga into what we are doing. Otherwise, we are just doing eastern calisthenics!” - Bryan Kest

The school and the teacher are responsible for imbuing these teachings into the physical practice. There are many fitness-only yoga out there these days. If you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the spiritual aspect of yoga and your current yoga practice focuses only on physical exercise and light on the spiritual, try a new yoga class, school, or yoga teacher.

How Can Practicing Yoga Enhance Spiritual Well-Being?

Yoga philosophy states that the cause of suffering is avidya, which could be translated as not seeing clearly or ignorance. Not ignorance, like many use the word today, meaning stupid, but like its intended meaning, which is not knowing. One could be highly intelligent and not know. That is ignorance. Yoga practice works to correct the distortions in our perceived reality and realign it with what is true through experience.

If you are interested in your spiritual development and would like to make self-reflection and self-realization a part of your daily life, try out one of our classes, designed to give yogis the space they need to dive deeper into the inner self.

All Bodies, All Beliefs: Welcome Home to Burning Wheel Yoga

At Burning Wheel Yoga School, we welcome everyone, regardless of their spiritual goals. Our carefully curated classes provide a dedicated space for self-reflection and exploration, helping you connect with your inner self. Whether you're seasoned in yogic practices or a beginner, we're here to guide you toward deeper self-realization and spiritual development. Perhaps you're primarily focused on strengthening your body, connecting with like-minded individuals, or both; you'll find a warm and welcoming space to pursue your goals.

Experience the joy of movement and the power of belonging in our supportive community! Check out our list of core classes here.


Owner of Burning Wheel Yoga School, Lead Instructor, Stained Glass Artist