Why and How Yoga Works

Torrance Meditation

This week at Mommy & Me support group, our therapist shared the single-most important factor in raising successful children. Can you guess? It’s not enrichment education, healthy diet, effective discipline, attachment practices, or any of the usual suspects. The single most important factor is self-reflective parenting. When she said it, I thought, “Yea. Obvious.”

Why? Children learn from what they observe. When they observe consistent self-reflection, they will themselves become self-reflective. So, what she’s really saying is, “The most successful people are self-reflective.” While I’ve never put it in those terms before, I have known and believed this to be true for some time.

We all have a vision for what we believe is the best version of ourselves. I know what “Super Bethany” looks like: she is compassionate, joyful, giving, disciplined with a fair dose of chill, and physically healthy. On my daily journey to be Super Bethany, I have to do a lot of course correcting. If I’m missing the part of me that checks in, reflects, learns, and makes adjustments, I will never get on track.

People who love yoga all love it for the same reason. We say it allows us to quiet our minds, connect, breathe, give back to ourselves, or go with the flow. Regardless of the words we use, what we mean is: yoga allows us the space to self-reflect in a positive, nurturing, supportive environment. The breath encourages us to slow our pace. The postures elicit stress-reducing hormones to make our bodies feel better. The additional elements – the comforting studios and beautifully scented oils, the zen space without clutter or confusion, the 60 minutes with no distraction  – these keep the whole experience non-threatening.

I’ve been practicing yoga for over a decade now, and I always knew it worked. I’ve spent countless hours reading the why; I love to know how the neuroscience of yoga builds a better brain, how the transmitters and hormones are scientifically shown to make me feel better, how sleep patterns and stress patterns and back pain and knee pain and everything can get better.

But, I’ve never felt it so simply and clearly. Yoga works because it helps me to reflect on me. I’m lucky I found yoga before I found my way to motherhood. My daughter will be luckier, because she will find yoga before she finds her way to high school. My mother just recently found yoga, and it’s helping her as she finds her way to retirement. We can all be better through yoga. Yoga works!