Each of us have different reasons for taking our first yoga class and continuing to make it a regular part of our lives.
I have been practicing yoga consistently for the past 17 years and have taught yoga for eight of those years. Throughout this time, my reasons for going to my yoga mat have varied.
My journey began with the desire to slow down, manage my stress and anxiety, and add stretching to my workout routine. A few years into my practice I became obsessed with mastering the more challenging poses such as Crow pose, Supported Headstand pose, and Peacock pose.
My next challenge was to understand the philosophy of yoga and add chanting to my practice. This opened my mind and connected me to the foundation of what has become a lifelong adventure. I truly enjoyed pursuing these facets of yoga and challenging myself, but one day I realized that I could still love my practice without the constant need for more.
There are three parts of my life that had forever been transformed by a consistent yoga practice, my greater overall physical flexibility, the powerful connection to my breath, and my mindfulness.
1. Increases flexibility.
Increasing flexibility allows for a greater range of motion throughout the entire body—This has been the mantra I have followed throughout all of my classes.
There are so many varieties of yoga to suit everyone’s needs. Feel the release that Yin yoga provides by holding stretches for a few minutes in order to increase the flexibility in your tendons and ligaments. Enjoy gently stretching at the end of a Power yoga class, or embrace a range of short and deep stretches in a Hatha yoga class.
By getting involved in these classes, your connective tissues can stretch a little further each time and your joints become lubricated by synovial fluid, allowing the bones to gently move over one another.
Allowing yourself to add yoga to your life for any amount of time—once a week, twice a week, or whenever you can fit it in, you will begin to witness the benefits of your practice flow into your daily life.
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How yoga can help you:
Sitting at a desk – Yoga will help your spine lengthen, your chest expand, and your shoulders rest below your ears, creating better posture and alleviating back pain.
Running – Yoga will create more flexibility in your hip flexors and extensors, allowing a better stride, better posture, and reducing pressure on your knees.
Hiking – Yoga will allow more flexibility in your hips and hamstrings, allowing the distribution of balance to alleviate pressure from the knee.
2. Helps connect to the breath.
Whenever I feel stressed and anxious, I stop, take a deep breath, and slowly let it out. This simple exercise has brought me so much freedom within my body and mind.
One of my favorite pranayama exercises is Candlelight Breath. Simply sit comfortably, draw a deep breath in through your nose, and out through pursed lips—as though you are blowing out a candle.
By connecting to the breath, you are connecting to the present moment. There is no regret for the past or fear of the future, all that is important is the now.
3. Creates constant mindfulness.
By connecting to my body and breath, I have been able to slow down and become more aware—aware of why I’m feeling tense or angry, why I’m losing focus on my mat, and why my mind is scattered.
Yoga teaches us to pause, both on and off the mat. Pause in the pose, pause when our thoughts interrupt our pranayama, pause before responding to the latest demand, and pause before saying something you might regret.
The benefits of a consistent yoga practice are rich, powerful, and always available. The union of body, breath, and mind is one of the greatest assets anyone can have.