Yoga has been a part of my life for over 5 years now. Something I’d never have believed if you told me a few years ago. I’d always thought I wasn’t bendy or flexible enough. Calm enough. Focused enough. And, I’ll admit, there are times I’m none of those things. I’m still not particularly flexible either. But my journey with yoga has taught me many things and improved both my physical and mental health. With all things it might take time to find the yoga that works for you. There are many types, so check them out and see if anything sounds comfortable or something you’d enjoy. If not, challenge yourself. It might surprise you!
For 5 Tips to Build a Home Yoga Practise read here.
Yoga for Mental Health
If you look online you’ll find loads of explanations why you should practise. So, I’ll leave that to you. You don’t need me to tell you. But I’ve noticed a profound difference for my mental health. My observations may not be the same as yours; that’s normal. The impact on my mental health has, however, been the main reason I’ve stuck with it so long. Even on the days I can’t be bothered. Or don’t feel in the right headspace.
Breathing & Finding Stillness
Generally, yoga has a calming impact on my mood. It’s why on the days I’m overthinking or feeling anxious, I push myself to do it. It forces me to stop and press pause. Something I often desperately need. And whilst I’ll fidget in positions, feel bored or eye roll. There are the times the deep breathing and static positions feel just what I need. Yoga isn’t just about the positions for me. It’s practising stillness too. I appreciate the time to focus on my breath and embrace simply being.
For How to Practise Deep Breathing for Stress read here.
Challenge & Achievement
Yoga is challenging too but in the best ways. Motivation via shouting won’t work for me. And, as mentioned, the stillness of yoga isn’t my natural forte. But the calm nature of the instructors encourage me to push further, delve deeper and do something different. Meeting this challenge head on and feeling the gradual adaptations. Bending a bit deeper, stretching a bit longer. They give me a boost, acknowledging my commitment not only to my mental health. But, also, doing something I never thought I could.
Yoga has also been great for my sleep. On a consistent basis when I’ve practised frequently. But specifically when overthinking. It helps me get out of my head. Find a different headspace. And calm my breathing. When needed, I’ll find a sleep yoga routine, and practise just before bed. There are even bed yoga practises to be done right in bed. The gentle relaxation practise and opportunity to relax can make a huge different to my sleep quality. I wake up less in the night, fall asleep quicker and usually sleep longer too.
Yoga for Physical Health
As above, the benefits of yoga for your physical health are abundant. From protection from injury, increased metabolism, lower blood pressure etc. But none of them are something I would notice. So, I’ve stuck to what I have and why it’s worked for me.
I’ll admit that flexibility doesn’t come naturally to me. And after multiple years of yoga, I’m still not a super flexible individual. However, that’s ok because I don’t need to be. Having said that, I have noticed a gradual increase in my flexibility and muscle strength. I can surprise myself at times with a pose I never thought I could hold. Imagine my surprise one day bending over to retrieve something and realising I could touch my toes. Or reach for something behind me because I had good spine flexibility. These things crept up on me but they are a joy to discover and a source of achievement. Likewise, it keeps me in touch with my body more. I’m far more aware of when my muscles feel tense and crucially which stretches can help me out.
Whilst there may be cardio aspects to some forms of yoga; such as power yoga. The focus of yoga is strength training and toning. As well as the aforementioned flexibility. Yoga isn’t the only form of exercise which helps me strengthen. But it is the one where I feel it most. Literally, when I challenge myself to hold downward dog, a plank or other poses for longer. But it’s also a knowledge of strength. A challenge to my core and my limbs to push further. And the feeling of being strong both mentally and physically that comes with that. It’s a wonderful feeling to feel strong and healthy.
For 7 Tips to Increase Exercise Motivation read here.
Energy and Breath
A core part of yoga is breathing and there are various types. Most instructors will suggest a breathing style for the flow or different poses. Some yoga classes or videos will include a section for breathwork. Breathing deeper can be healing for us in many ways. And whilst it calms down my nervous system and thereby reduces stress and anxiety. My capacity to deep breather feels like it has increased too. I find it easier to breathe through hard poses when my every resource is challenged. Breathing deeper and holding for longer.
Likewise, yoga can energize me in a special way. I usually end a yoga practise either ready to roll into bed or to face the day. This can be to do with the kind of yoga I’ve tried. There are flows for the morning to set you up for the day. Just as there are ones to practise in the evening to help unwind. But generally, it boosts my mood and helps me feel motivated and productive. Whether from the feeling of achievement or a flow well done. Or perhaps the deeper and less obvious workings that yoga has on our bodies.
What are your reasons for practising yoga? How does it impact your mental and physical health? Does it impact any other areas of your life? As always, let us know below