I have been practicing yoga since the beginning of 2008. My mind can’t believe it has been that long, while my body and spirit can’t seem to remember life before yoga. The postures (asanas) and deep, conscious breathing of yoga have become such an important part of my life that it is no longer a separate entity. I realize that sounds a bit “out there,” so please bear with me. I don’t want to turn anyone off with too much woo woo speak, because this is such powerfully simple stuff! Here are some of the reasons why I love it so much, and hope, if you haven’t already, you will want to try it too.
#1 – It Makes Me Feel Great
Strong, confident, powerful, challenged, and lean are the words that come to mind when I complete a yoga routine. I often dedicate just 10 or 20 minutes a day, following a yoga DVD or working with a video on my laptop or iPad Mini. Still, in such a short time I am able to see daily changes in my body and a different sense of clarity and peace in my mind. Before I ever tried yoga, I had read countless studies about its benefits, several of which noted people who commit to a regular yoga practice tend to treat their bodies better, including eating better and feeling a greater sense of acceptance for their body type. This seemed odd to me at first. However, in my very first year of practice my body got leaner and more defined than I had ever seen it, even compared to a strenuous athletic schedule in my teens. In addition, I did in fact want to nourish myself differently both with food and in terms of how I viewed myself. I started to walk taller, and respect my body more.
#2 – It Reminds Me to Be Grateful
Along with the respect for my body came a deep admiration for what it was capable of with practice. Many poses were initially difficult. Warrior poses in particular were uncomfortable, annoying, even maddening at times. You mean you want me to hold my arms up, turn my hips forward, all while keeping my feet angled to the side? That just didn’t seem aerodynamically possible. I thought for sure I would always loath them. Then one day, my arms fell into place, my hips stopped fighting, and I realized exactly why they have “warrior” right in the name. I felt incredibly powerful. In mastering it for that brief moment, there was a realization that if my body can do something that my resistant mind originally thought it couldn’t, perhaps there is nothing I can’t do? That thought alone freed me to see how amazing my body was, even with illness and ongoing aging, it still can get better all the time. New muscles take shape, new movements can be learned – yoga has taught me what a miracle the human body is.
#3 – It Keeps Me Humble
Just as I am congratulating myself on how miraculous my body is, I transition from Warrior 3 to Half Moon and down I go. There is a reason I said I have been “practicing” yoga. Yoga is not something you can ever fully master. You do get better steadily, but every class is different. We often look at life in a linear fashion, believing if we keep doing the same progressive actions things will always improve. The truth is, life isn’t linear. We have good days and bad days, and things don’t always progress as we’d like them to. Yoga teaches you to embrace that. Chris Freytag, one of my favorite yoga instructors says, “Strive for progress, not perfection.” After practicing yoga regularly I was able to more fully accept that there is no such thing as perfection, and I wouldn’t want it even if could have it because it would make life boring. There would be no challenge.
#4 – It Works My Entire Body
For years, in spite of regular exercise, I still had flabby arms. I would look at photos of Madonna, and think, “how is that humanly possible?” It took only a few yoga classes before I realized yoga postures impact every part of your body. The moves are so unique that every muscle group gets challenged. Even when I opt to focus only on my core, doing a “Yoga for Abs” workout, my chest, back, legs and arms get a workout. The same is true for your spirit and mind. You may not actually be focusing on those elements, but they magically work their way in. Some poses trigger meridian points, others call for a level of focus that effortlessly put you into a state of full connection – body, mind, and spirit. After all, yoga actually means, “to yoke body to mind.”
#5 – It is FREE!
I love free stuff. Who doesn’t love free stuff? Once you learn the core poses of yoga (preferably through a trained instructor), you can do them anywhere, at any time, without equipment. Although a yoga mat is always advised, I have been doing yoga without a mat, in my carpeted bedroom for years. I even practice Mountain Pose while waiting in line at the store, or get into Tree Pose while brushing my teeth. The yoga community is incredibly generous. There are loads of free resources and videos online. For a smattering of these resources, and more information see: http://www.happyhealthyher.com/body/exercise/yoga/
Do you love yoga too? Please share some of your favorite resources, or your own personal reasons for loving this ancient tradition.