I discovered yoga when I was 16. I was young, vulnerable and not quite sure of myself yet. I was also at an age where I was the most insecure about my body. Being pressured and bullied into having a socially accepted body took a toll on my self-esteem and self-worth. At 16, I thought that my value was worth only what I saw in the mirror.
When I took my first class, I was instructed to define what felt good for me. To do what feels good. And for the first time in my life, I didn’t worry about how I looked or if I was doing things right. I didn’t worry if what I was doing or how I looked was pleasing to anyone else. My only concern on the mat that day was to listen to myself. It was one of the most liberating feelings I’ve ever had and I’ve been hooked since.
Yoga has always been the glue to connecting what I do physically with where I am internally. It’s one of the only activities I have been able to take out of the gym/studio and directly use in my every day life. Below are just a few of the reasons to love yoga even more if you don’t already do.
You are able to get out of your own head
Whether you practice at home, in the studio, or anywhere in between, yoga helps you practice detachment from the thoughts and worries weighing you down. In yoga, one of the areas you practice is withdrawal of the senses (Pratyahara). In class, your teacher will guide you through the practice of drawing awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. This will give you the opportunity to focus instead on the present moment, where you are, and how you are. With so many things happening at once in our lives, being able to just slow down and have a space that is just yours to own is empowering. It also reminds you that while you can’t control what happens to you externally, you can control how you react to it. Which leads to the next reason:
It reminds you to pause
We are often pulled in so many different directions in a day. My years of practicing yoga has personally helped me find the space between balancing work, family, my social life, and everything else. In a yoga class, you’ll find yourself focusing more on your breath (Pranayama) than anything physical. As autonomous and essential breathing is, sometimes we are just so bogged down by everything around us that we forget about our breath (I am willing to bet right now you are just now noticing your own :P). When I’m feeling weighed down, the first thing I unconsciously do is hold my breath while the stress piles on. When you practice yoga, you are practicing how to recognize your breath, how your breath connects to your body, and how you connect with all the things around you. And when you have the realization, life doesn’t seem so heavy.
You feel connected to yourself
When you practice, you are consciously creating a space to reflect on your own internal needs. We are complex beings, ever-changing and moving. When you are mindful to yourself and the time you’re giving yourself, you become much more connected to the subtle changes around you and within you.
While the poses are beautiful, yoga is beyond twisting and turning your body. The poses you get into (Asanas) tie directly into the breath. Once you’re able to get out of your head, pause, and connect with yourself, you become much more aware of the physical motions and movements your body makes. Your teacher will guide you through the poses, but ultimately, it is up to you to listen to your body and decide what feels good for you in the current state. When you understand your body, the poses you hold will have so much more impact.
You become aware of how great you are
Beyond the physical and mental benefits of yoga, one of the most empowering things you can walk away with after your class is the sense of pride for having made time for yourself and your well-being. Yoga gives you a space, where ever you are, to reflect on the aspects of yourself and your life that you may not have had the time to do before.