For those of you who know me, you know that I am, and always have been, very inflexible. And for those of you who don’t know me, believe me when I say that. I mean I would stretch after a workout or when I was sore, but it was never something I really focused heavily on (and something I still need to work on). That’s why, during summer and winter break, I started trying out the yoga class almost every Friday morning at my local gym, and I would do use a yoga DVD when I was away at school. I enjoyed the class way more than doing it along with the DVD, but either way, I found the power of yoga.
Now, when I say “power”, I don’t mean like magical powers that some people believe yoga can do. It’s great that some people believe in it because it works for them, but I never have been that much of a believer. I did, however, find it to be very beneficial for my mind, body and the connection between the 2 (especially important when overcoming my disorder and image issues). I also found it to be helpful in controlling my breathing, stress, and calmness. But, most of all, I loved the feeling of power over my body (and all the amazing things it was capable of) that yoga gave me! There are a lot of different types, or schools, of yoga, but they all provide so many great benefits, a few of which I will highlight.
This one is an obvious benefit, but still very important. For someone who couldn’t touch their toes (and probably still can only on a “good” day), yoga really helped to stretch my muscles and become more flexible. Increased flexibility leads to a lot less injury in sports, working out, and other daily activities.
Increased Muscle strength/tone
Yoga is exercise just as cardio or weights is. All the exercises require that you use your bodyweight to hold yourself up and twist/move your body into certain positions–all of which will help build/tone muscle. Some of the common core areas that yoga targets are the shoulders, triceps, abs, and legs.
Helps Your Posture
You may not think that posture is too important, but it is! Today, so many of us slouch or slump without even realizing it (either due to imbalanced muscles, sitting all day, natural slouch, etc.) which can put strain on your spine and joints. Moving your body and the stretching that you do in yoga can help to loosen your body and create better posture. This is important because poor posture can cause other injuries such as back, head, and neck pain.
Improved Respiration and energy
It may seem counterintuitive that laying down and doing yoga in a calming environment would give you more energy, but it’s so true! Every session, which ends with lying down, very still, in “corpse pose”, gave me more refreshment, vitality and energy! Something about the way you move and warm up all the joints and muscles in your body just kind of gives you that kick of feel-good energy that you will feel leaving class!
Helps You Manage Stress
A major part of any yoga class is honing in on and focusing on your breath and the movements of your breathing–feeling your chest rise and fall as air flows throughout. These not only help calm your heart, body and mind, but they are also great learning tools to use outside of class too. These same breathing techniques can be used whenever you’re in a stressful situation and need 5 minutes of relaxation/alone/able-to-breath time. Also, yoga generally makes you a calmer person which will help you manage your future stress easier and better.
Makes You Happier
A study showed that consistent yoga practice lead to increased serotonin levels, which can make you feel happier. Also, the feeling of calm, peace and revived energy–all things you receive from yoga–can help somebody’s mood and feelings as well. While yoga isn’t an instant cure, it does help you become aware of your everyday life and what things really make you happy.
Increased Mental Well-Being
Regular yoga practice creates a sense of calm and relaxation as well as increases your body awareness, centers your attention and sharpens your focus/concentration. All of these things help create your mental well-being because it gives your body a chance to relax, take a break and really focus in on remaining calm and aware. Being aware of your surroundings, life, body, etc. is healthy mentally because instead of regretting the past or worrying about the future, your mind is focusing on the here-and-now and not stressing out as much. Your mental well-being is just as important as your physical body!
This is probably the biggest one for me, but it also can be hard to learn/feel–sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s just not for me. However, when I really focus on each pose, the movement of my body, and relaxing my mind by bringing focus to the breath, I feel vibrant and energized! That connection between your mind and body is huge in yoga and it’s really cool because your mind gets to see just how strong and awesome your body physically is. I think this element is super important too in those recovering from distorted body images and other disorders because you get to truly feel and see how powerful your mind and body can be! Yoga allows that feeling of power to wash over you once you start practicing!
So, there you have it: the power of yoga! I know yoga may not seem like the most fun or best exercise, but it can be a big and important part of a healthy lifestyle. If you haven’t tried it, I would suggest that you do, so you too can have the benefits of yoga!