10 reasons to do yoga3 October 2019
When I tell people I am a yoga teacher, I often get the same reply: “I would love to do yoga, but I’m not flexible enough.” Even though this always makes me laugh (it’s the equivalent of saying you don’t want to shower, because you’re not clean enough), I do understand where it comes from. Before I discovered yoga, I thought it was only meant for super flexible acrobats. Given that I never was the sporty, bendy type, I believed there was no reason for me to start yoga.
But when I was in my early twenties, I was also very restless, a notorious worrier, and had trouble sleeping at night. Deep down inside I knew that something like meditation or yoga could be good for me, not just physically.
Even though yoga is mostly known in the West as a type of exercise that makes you super flexible, yoga is an ancient practice that mostly aims to quieten the mind and prepare the body for meditation. As such, it has many benefits on both a physical and mental level. So if you feel like you need to be convinced to practice yoga, below are ten reasons to incorporate more yoga in your life:
Yoga teaches you to be present
Most of us spend most of our time worrying about the future or thinking about the past. Or we choose to mentally check-out altogether and turn to our phones and social media. What I remember from my first yoga experience, is that it turned me from an anxious person who always worries about the future or the past, into someone who can actually recognise and enjoy the present moment for what it is. When you do yoga and focus on your breath, you learn to be present with what is happening in the here and now. This is especially the case when doing slower forms of yoga, such as hatha or yin yoga.
You can do yoga at any pace
One reason why I’ve never been much of a sports person – despite trying many different kinds of sports throughout my life – is because I always felt like I had to compromise my own pace for that of the team, the pace of the choreography, or the horse that decided to trot when I wasn’t ready. But with yoga, since the goal is listen to your own body and what it needs, you stay close to yourself. Of course, it’s only natural that it’s easier to move at your own pace when you’re doing a home practice, than when you’re in a room with twenty other people who are about to do their seventh vinyasa in a row, but still. But it’s not supposed to be a competition and you can always, always, take a resting pose. In addition, given the large variety in yoga styles, you can always find a type of yoga that works with your pace: from the hardcore ashtanga flows to the more slow and steady hatha classes.
Yoga helps you find balance
Yoga is all about balance. Not just balancing poses like tree pose or Lord of the Dance pose, but also finding balance within yourself, on the mat and off the mat. I have to admit that finding balance off the mat is still quite vague and extremely difficult to me, mostly because it’s so hard to pinpoint what constitutes as balance. But if I look back over the six or so years I have been practicing yoga, I have definitely been on a path towards a more balanced life. Where I have always had the tendency to be either all over the place, or completely off the radar, I now find myself much more in a nuanced state in between.
Yoga stretches and strengthens your body
The myth is true. After a few weeks of first practicing yoga I could all of a sudden reach my toes, where I wasn’t able to do that beforehand. Through yoga I have become much more flexible with my body, and stronger at that too. So if you still think you need to be flexible before starting yoga, know that it will definitely happen during yoga. And don’t forget that some areas of your body will always stay a little tight, or some (traditional versions of) poses maybe more challenging for you simply given the way your bones are shaped. Yoga is not about performing an aesthetic pose, but about stretching your body in a way that works for you.
Yoga makes you feel more connected to others
One reason why I feel like yoga makes me happier, is because it makes me feel more connected with the outside world ánd with myself. It is commonly said that the word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj”, which translates to “yoke” or “union”. Although it appears that this translation and its significance in Patanjali’s original teachings of yoga are disputed, nowadays this sense of union or oneness with the universe is one of the key characteristics of the yoga philosophy. And though it may sound sappy, I can attribute my feelings of compassion and interconnection with other people and beings mostly to yoga – and veganism of course.
Yoga helps you get out of your head
In the first few years of doing yoga, my practice was more of a physical activity for me. Of course I was definitely able to reap the benefits of the more spiritual and mental aspects of yoga, and practicing presence and mindfulness was always important to me. But it was only when I was struggling with anxiety and panic atacks that I realised how much yoga helps me to get out of my head and to calm me down. In times when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, yoga is my cure. Yoga has made such a difference in not just learning to notice where my present awareness is, but also in shifting it to other areas. As you tune in to your body and your breath, your attention shift from the always racing mind to the silence in between your thoughts.
Yoga gives you body awareness
In yoga classes, you practice becoming aware of your body. When I first started practicing yoga, I had no idea how to tilt my pelvis or tune in to my belly. I was so much in my head that I hardly felt the body that existed beneath it. But in practicing yoga for nearly eight years, I’ve started to feel all different parts of my body. And yes, practicing yoga makes you also very aware of how tight and tense some areas in your body are. Often these areas correspond to emotional or mental issues you are dealing with. Because of my experience with panic attacks and anxiety, I can now instantly notice in my body when my anxiety is rising again, because of how tense my chest or stomach area feel. And with that awareness, I can work on shifting my energy.
Yoga helps you sleep better
With yoga you work on relaxing the body and taking conscious breaths. As we relax and take deeper breaths, our heart rate lowers, blood pressure lowers, and the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, lower – all of which will help in making you feel less stressed. When we are less stressed, we can also sleep better. Research has shown that yoga is an effective treatment for insomnia. And we all know that better sleep is crucial for stay healthy and happy!
Yoga shifts your energy
On days when my monkey brain is on full speed, yoga helps me to calm down and ground. On days when I’m too lazy or tired to leave the house, yoga helps me to feel a little bit more energised. Yoga is a miracle worker like that. I’m not saying that everyone should starting skipping their visits to the doctor and turn to downward facing dog instead. But there’s really a lot that a little bit of yoga can solve.
Yoga makes you feel more alive
Yoga is so much more than just asana. It’s also meditation, it’s pranayama (breathing exercises), it’s kindness and compassion, it’s self-reflection – it’s all these things at once. I have started to sleep better. I have started to breathe deeper. I have started to actively feel my feet as they touch the floor. These may be small, insignificant things to some people, but to me they are huge. It makes me feel happy to be alive, belonging to the earth.
Curious about seeing what yoga can do for you? Contact me to discuss the possibilities of taking a class with me.