What are the deeper benefits?
Regular asana practice is likely to reduce overall physical discomfort, but it also helps build up behavioral patterns of awareness and inquiry that can help reduce mental and emotional discomfort. Just as we summon courage to do postures that we are apprehensive of, we find courage to face situations in other parts of our lives. Just as we learn to breath and maintain our grace during challenging postures, we learn to take a deep breath and maintain our sense of self during other challenging times.
When we find a joint or muscle aching, we learn to look for causes and solutions… Then, when we find mental or emotional disturbances, we already have a predisposition to seek out causes and solutions. We look for the ways in which our own choices are contributing to our discomfort… as well as the ways in which our response to external circumstances may be causing us unnecessary distress. In this way, our perception of suffering is gradually reduced. It’s not so much that yoga will transform each day into a paradise of roses and cake… but rather that yoga will transform our minds such that we are increasingly able to perceive difficult moments with interest, grace, and wisdom.