There are numerous reasons why people practice yoga: flexibility, strength, stress relief, spiritual practices or health reasons. Often times, after an extended period of consistent practice, ones reason for coming to the mat changes... mine definitely did. Being active my whole life, I spent hours stretching before and after dance practices, rock climbing and snowboarding. Eventually my stretching became a ritual, something I'd look forward to every morning. I began incorporating some meditation and through time, my stretching regimen turned into a yoga practice. This quickly became an addiction. I felt SO good afterwards - mentally and physically. Spiritually, I felt I was discovering a new part of myself and the world. My "social goggles" were removed and I found connection that I felt I'd been missing for a long time. I now practice daily and reap the fruits on all levels.
The health, mental and spiritual benefits are very real. Whatever your reason is for coming to the mat, be proud of it and be open to receiving much more than you may expect.
Here are some of the most significant reasons why you should try a yoga practice if you've not yet.
- Stress Relief
While an unfortunate reality of the majority of the population includes stress, there are many ways to lessen its impact on your mind, body and spirit, one of which is yoga! You've definitely heard a yoga teacher saying "focus on your breathing" or "come back to your breath", but what you may not notice is the impact this has on you. When you focus on your breathing, you're focusing on what you're doing right now, not worrying about what may be or what happened in the past. For example, during a balance posture, you must be in the present moment and focus on your breath otherwise you will fall over. That is what mindfulness practices and through being mindful, you'll notice all of the unnecessary stressors that exist which you can simply let go of.
There are so many different types of yoga! Depending on what you'd like to focus your practice on (mindful movement, spirituality, fitness and health, meditation, relaxation, stretching, strengthening, cardiovascular), you're sure to find a style of yoga that satisfies your needs.
- Improves posture, balance, flexibility and strength.
Yoga is a beautiful dance of balance: sitting meditation and mindful movement, yin and yang, strength and relaxation, forward folds and back bends. With each asana (posture) you're challenging both mind and body. Beginners: fear not, there are many postures to get you started in your practice. Through time and a consistent schedule, you'll notice great improvements in all aspects of your physical being.
- Better sleep.
Restorative yoga and yoga nidra are perfect before-bed classes. Deep breathing and meditation before going to sleep can significantly improve quality and length of sleep. There are many postures you can practice in bed too: Viparita Karani (legs on the wall pose), seated forward fold, knees to chest, supine butterfly, reclining spinal twist and fish pose! Don't forget to breathe!
- You'll feel better.
Whether it's a boost of self-love or a more optimistic perspective on the outer world, a consistent yoga practice with a teacher that suits your needs and matches your energy can do wonders to your mental and spiritual well-being. Certain yoga poses make you feel truly powerful (Warrior series, or that post-savasana bliss, anyone?). Setting an intention before a class can have great effects too: focus on leaving the room better than when you entered or perhaps focus the rest of your day towards being of service to others and spreading love and positivity.
- You'll love yourself more!
As you move through each asana, you will notice all of the extraordinary little things your body does for you on a daily basis! Many yoga classes are in groups however yoga is, at its root, an individual practice. When you spend time focusing on moving with your breath, you'll begin to realize how powerful your body truly is - even if you're not able to do a handstand or any crazy inversions, notice the beauty and power in "simple" daily tasks such as walking, eating, breathing, talking and thinking. Your body is truly a magnificent creation.