How yoga can improve your health

Yoga teacher Steve Bracken has spent the last three weeks teaching at Constance Halaveli,Maldives. Here, he writes how yoga can improve our health and wellbeing.

Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Finding ways to deal with life’s challenges

If we wish to keep moving forward in our lives, we need to embrace the challenges that life brings our way.

This often entails seeking new solutions to our problems that may involve a radical shift of perspective, stepping into a totally new life situation, or more often than not, just a minor tweak to get us back into the flow of our lives.

A minor tweak though still takes awareness and demonstrates a willingness not to stagnate. We  know when we are on the right track as we are rewarded by a sense of aliveness.

Expanding our awareness through yoga

This same attitude applies to our yoga practice. If we challenge ourselves by opening up to new teachers and new ways of approaching a posture we will enrich our practice. We may discover things that previously we may not have ever considered. Equally, the principles we can learn through a yoga practice can enrich other areas of our lives.

Steve Bracken at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Steve Bracken at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Some examples of this would be:

  • Acceptance - Acceptance of our body with its limitations and from this place encouraging  positive change. If we try to force our body it will create injury and discomfort. If we do nothing then there will be no improvement. If we regularly nurture it with love and compassion it will respond. Through acceptance we learn to listen to the messages of the body and respond accordingly and in doing so we can become present and enjoy the journey. We learn to work with the body and not against it.
  • Breath - If we can breathe fully we can relax, even if we are still working hard. If we are straining for breath then there is tension in the body and mind. We need to become aware of what is causing the tension and adjust ourselves accordingly and in doing so release it.  Only then can a sense of spaciousness occur that allows the breath to flow without restriction. When this occurs the body and mind are working optimally.
  • Foundation - the stronger and more rooted our foundation the less effort is required in a posture. If our foundation is unstable then the resulting strain will permeate throughout the whole structure of the body. We must always come back to our foundation to check whether it is secure and connected to the ground beneath us.
Sunset at Constance Halaveli

Sunset at Halaveli

As we work with the principles of movement and explore that which creates health and wellbeing, we find that the underlying concepts apply to all areas of our lives. In fact what is truly good for us is good for everyone and everything. We also come to know that when we work with these principles on a regular basis we feel both happier and more energised.

These are all good reasons to experience new yoga classes and new teachers wherever you find yourself in the world. To learn, to be revitalised, and to reconnect to important principles for both health and life.

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Yoga instructor Steve Bracken reveals how to maintain good health naturally

Yoga and movement therapist Steve Bracken is sharing his expertise with guests at Constance Halaveli this month. Here, Steve outlines health tips we can all follow.

Steve Bracken, yoga teacher and bodyworker

Steve Bracken, yoga teacher and bodyworker

Movement therapy
My approach to health, yoga (movement therapy), fitness and bodywork was influenced greatly by the work of KRI Jagadish when I volunteered at his clinic in Mysore, India.

In his clinic people are treated with soft tissue manipulation, massage, yoga therapy and only food is used as the medicine. There I literally saw miracles of recovery on a daily basis and I came to realise the importance of treating health in a holistic manner.

Holistic approach & the health mandala
With the knowledge I gained there, combined with what I already knew, I put together the health mandala – a holistic approach to improving health that looks at the areas of exercise, diet, vitality/energy levels and our attitude. If we want to improve our health we need to look at all of these areas in relation to our health goal.

However, to begin we first must check that we are not coming from a place of self-blame or recrimination for any health or body issues we may have. If we attempt to make war on our body to force it into a healthier state we will ultimately fail. We need to accept but not necessarily like that we are in our present condition due to our unique life history.

Positive thinking
The next step is to focus on positive outcomes and understand the benefits of those outcomes. We can visualise living a healthier life and enjoying the benefits. We also need to have a highest goal that is not dependent on outside validation or an ideal image of ourselves. For example, instead of trying to lose weight we can focus on feeling healthier, lighter and more energised.

This is a goal that is growth orientated and flexible. It does not set us up for failure if we don’t reach our specific goal. We may still aim to lose weight, for example, but it should not be our highest goal. When we feel good about ourselves it is easier to treat ourselves well.

Steve Bracken at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Steve Bracken at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Stress relief
Another tip is to learn to listen to the messages of the body. The body will respond to any unhealthy stresses, especially if they are chronic, that are placed upon it in a negative way whether it is from food or drug toxins, nutritional deficiency, harmful physical activity or inactivity, emotional or psychological stress and so on.

The body is hard wired for health and happiness and lets us know when we are going against its best interests. Hence, an awareness of what causes us stresses and a willingness to deal with the cause through this mindfulness will change them or our attitude to them, and guide us to a healthier and happier way of living.

Steve’s holistic health tips

  • Exercise regularly and do something you enjoy but generally work to only 70% of your maximum capacity.
  • Eat less meat and that includes chicken. People generally consume far too much protein.
  • Watch less news and television in general. It is mostly negative, generally not the truth and does nothing for relaxation.
Find out more

Visit his website to find out more about Steve Bracken’s approach to yoga and movement

Get Steve’s expert tuition online with his Simple Mobilisation video 

Read Tanya Kemp’s guide to improving your health through yoga