Hello, Everyone! I am so excited to finally share a post that I have been patiently waiting to write, because I wanted to make sure that I was comfortable enough within my own practice before sharing what I believe to be the wondrous benefits of Yoga.
For years I was completely turned off by this 5,000 year old practice and although I heard about the “so-called” benefits of it, I still felt that it was for those that enjoyed meditating, taking it “easy,” or preferred granola bars and nature walks over protein shakes and cardio. Then last summer as I was at the gym killing myself on the treadmill trying my hardest to convince my mind that I could make my asthmatic self an avid runner, and that the pain in my left knee was only psychological, I looked at the crowd on the level below me as they moseyed on out of a “Yoga” class (I’m guessing the mats gave it away), and I thought to myself: every single soul walking out of that class not only looks relaxed, recharged and reinvigorated, but more so, they had this energy emulating from them, that I could not witness on the faces of the men gnashing their teeth as they turned an unhealthy shade of purple lifting weights (clearly far too heavy for their bodies), or the women sweating to death, with agonizing looks on their faces as they climbed their way up that Jacob’s ladder and those elliptical machines.
I decided then and there that I had to make a transition with my fitness routine. Granted, knee problems or not, I always have and always will consider fitness one of the most important aspects in my life, but from years of dance, cheerleading and gymnastics, the wear and tear it has done to me is going to break me sooner than later, if I didn’t start listening to my body…
So on July 6, as hesitant as I was about it: I joined my first Yoga class. The first practice was completed with much success, largely because of the flexibility, balance and mobility that I had built up from my years involved in sports (yes, I consider cheerleading a sport!) which gave me a foundation to build on…literally.
From that day on, I became an addict-a Yoga addict. Over the past 6 months I have started to witness positive results, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, which then led me to not only attending a workshop led by the world-renowned Yoga Instructor last weekend, Rachel Brathen (who, by the way is extremely inspiring), but it also gave me the desire to share why me, a new-found “Yogi” found pleasure and benefits in practicing Yoga “… every damn day,” as Rachel so lightly puts it.
So, enough with my ranting and raving…below I’ve created MY list of reasons to step onto that Yoga Mat:
- Clears the mind of chaos and keeps you balanced:
When I first started taking Yoga, one of the hardest aspects about it was leaving everything that was going on in my life off of my mat. The chaos and noise in your daily life should be enough to want to take time for yourself, but because our culture is so tied up with going, going, going…we often forget that we sometimes neglect to take a moment for ourselves to breath, reflect, and collect our thoughts-live in the present
2. Detoxes your organs:
There are certain movements and poses in Yoga that, like many exercises, help to detoxify your organs; unwinding tight muscles from around critical areas such as your neck, spine, and hips. By practicing Yoga on a daily basis, you’re giving your body the chance to cleanse itself of unnecessary toxins that are harmful to your overall health and well-being
3. Improves overall flexibility and strength:
Yoga is a phenomenal workout, whether you are strictly devoted to the practice, or use it to cross-train with other physical activities, such as running, because it works your entire body. My entire life, I have always been exceptionally flexible due to my background. As a cheerleader, I’ve actually done some of the poses that are used in Yoga, without even realizing it! The crazy part is, they weren’t done on a mat, but by being held up in the air…however, the one thing I could never do (and I blame this on extremely tight hamstrings) is the ability to touch my toes sitting down. I could wrap my leg around the back of my body and hold it in a “dancer’s pose” and even extend it out to the side of my head, but never could I touch my own toes! After one week of Yoga, I was able to extend my hands past my toes, and I am getting better week by week. I’ve even noticed more definition in my arms, legs, core, and yes, even my butt, since I have been fitting this exercise routine into my daily schedule.
4. Reduces blood pressure, anxiety and alleviates ailments:
I never realized until I started taking Yoga, that my entire life, I have been breathing the wrong way! Yoga not only teaches you to be mindful of your breaths, but you learn to create a more rhythmic flow which can help reduce anxiety, which then reduces blood pressure because you have less “stressful hormones”. The best part is that these breathing techniques can be used anywhere: in the classroom, at home with the kids, when you’re stuck in traffic, etc… catch my drift?
5. Helps you focus on intentional living:
I always felt that whenever I heard the word “centered” it was just more Yoga gibberish…however, feeling centered is one of the most important qualities I have started to gradually appreciate as I have become more serious with this practice. Yoga almost requires you to re-wire your brain and to tune into your body, feeling more engaged and connected than ever before. Being aware of the movements you make, the sound of your heart, and the depths of your breath are just reminders of how sacred your body truly is.
6. Boosts endorphin’s and gives you energy:
Do you notice how any time you workout you not only have the sweat and fatigue from the activity, but also this inner-sense of energy that makes you feel better about yourself and more alive? Those are your endorphin’s saying, “I like what you just did! Keep it up, I want more!” This is exactly what Yoga does for you, regardless of the intensity of your workout. It leaves you fresh, and full of energy, with your body craving for more of that new technique you’ve been trying to master, or a more mindful, full body stretch to keep your body limber and relaxed
7. It’s good for the soul!:
Yoga is considered a “holistic” practice, meaning that it not only aids you physically, but it works for the mind and soul as well. It has taught me to stay positive, remove as much negativity as possible and know that where I am now is where I should be. Although I am still trying my hardest to focus on myself, and my well-being while I am on my mat, my intentions are full of optimism and reassurance that whatever was in the past, I need to learn how to let it go…live in the moment, and to just breathe!
Hopefully this was enough to inspire you to unroll that mat you purchased years ago, and put it to good use. If you’re not already a member of a gym that offers this, there are multiple classes popping up everywhere from schools, colleges, and studios. You’re just one google search away from changing your life-believe me!
Here’s hoping that everyone has an easy transition into the weekend! Until Sunday when I return with the next featured “What I Wore” post…namaste.
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Photo Credits: Image of Rachel Brathen borrowed from Google Image
Photo Credits: Image below the title and images below #’s 1 and 4 borrowed from Google Image