We’ve all heard this or a variation of it. The fact that movement has a positive impact on our general well being is no mystery and has been researched extensively.
I’ve had a regular workout routine since I was about 5 years old, so in my adult years the need to move in one way or another every day was second nature to me. While the post-workout feels applies to pretty much every “movement” that gets your heart rate up, yoga, to me, has a special place.
It wasn’t until 4 years ago that I started a serious yoga practice (by serious I mean regular as in at least 5 times a week for a min 60 min). I was feeling “down” - i.e. was depressed - and my a therapist pointed out that my mood was way “better” when I had been to yoga that day. To me it was surprising, as I wasn't into yoga nor was I "good" at it.
Looking back I think it was one of the best things I did to get out of my head. I couldn’t necessarily make pretty shapes, but I had 90 minutes to breathe and move. It was my time where I didn’t have to be or do anything but to watch and hear my breath. That was what made me go back. It was my meditation.
Over time, I got better at making the shapes while being able to keep the distance to my thoughts and even ended up getting a qualification as a yoga teacher.
Apart from being good for general well being, and a companion to physiotherapy, yoga is now being used as a complementary treatment to psychotherapy to conditions ranging from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorders to addiction and PTSD.
You may not have a serious condition to turn to yoga for, but I can promise you’ll get some good out of it for your mind and your body.
What is yoga good for?
1- Calms you down
Yoga helps your body shift gears, from the sympathetic to parasympathetic or simply put - fight or flight to rest and digest mode.
2- Everyone can breathe
No matter your background, your physical strength or your state of mind - we can all breathe. And in a yoga class we breathe together, and that my friends is magic.
3- You meet a lot of people. And they are usually really nice*.
Especially if you’re a regular at a class, you start by noticing other regulars. Then you start saying hello and before you even know it you’re going on holiday together.
*Changing rooms at some studios, London commuting they can all get a bit hectic so at peak times you might have to use an extra yogi zen power to avoid activating the rage. Good news though, over time you get better at managing it.
4- You get to know yourself.
I mean really learning how your mind and body works. You start paying attention to how you feel, how you react to certain situations or people and start asking why.
5- You have better relationships with people.
Following up on the previous point, the more you know yourself and your reactions perhaps you’ll pause before you react to someone’s comment.
6- You’re kinder to yourself and to others.
Once you realise what a mess your mind is, you’ll most likely end up being compassionate to others around you - perhaps a bit more understanding to the ones that you have a hard time understanding.
7- There are some really strong and bendy people out there.
This is something that amazes me every time I go to a yoga class, some people have such control over their body that it’s inspiring. To get to a point where you have such control over your body needs not only body strength but also dedication and mental strength.
*Bonus track: Kills your ego
All this mindfulness and self reflection is bound to show when you’re being greedy, or acting out of your ego. You’ll notice that sooner or later and will most likely try and dismiss it.
Over time you’ll get better at seeing it come and start accepting that everyone is a work in progress, we are not defined by what we can do, how much we earn. Perhaps you’ll start acting from a different place, one of compassion and let go of the tug of war we all find ourselves in and notice how freeing it can be.
Before you go, here's a little exercise to try:
Inhale for 4 counts
Hold your breath for 4 counts
Exhale for 6 counts.
Repeat as 5 times (or as many times you like)
Take a few moments to notice how you’re feeling.