Starting something new is always daunting.
Will I be good at it? How will I feel? What happens if I can’t do it?
None of these questions are actually important when it comes to starting yoga. Read on to find out why…
Has your perception of yoga come from images you see – social media? Fit and glamorous bodies standing on their hands (or head). These images are far from the truth of what yoga actually is for around 95% of the population who practice it.
Or maybe the image in your mind is a brightly robed monk sitting cross-legged chanting OM. Spiritual enlightenment can seem unrealistic amongst the practicalities of modern life!
Here is the reality of a yoga practice…
There will be you, a mat, perhaps a couple of props and simply your intention.
Yes, touching your toes might be a challenge and even coordinating right from left might make your feel like you have grown an extra limb, but these are normal aspects of a yoga class – particularly as a Beginner.
And practice is the essence of yoga – if you don’t practice you don’t benefit.
So here are a 5 reasons why starting yoga could really benefit your life.
1. Yoga Improves Posture and Strengthens the Body
‘Use it or lose it’ is a key mantra here. Now, more than ever, our body is subject to a sedentary life. We sit to work, drive, eat, watch TV. (What stomach muscles?)
Or we have jobs that make us move in repetitive ways – weakening our body and causing strain. (Shoulder pain from repetitive use of that computer mouse?).
Yoga reverses these unhealthy patterns that muscles and connective tissue have accumulated. (Read more here about the benefits of asana). The practice can make us aware of negative posture and movements that we may do every day without awareness. It can teach us to support our body constructively. It also subtly works on giving us flexibility – something that rapidly decreases as we age. (Notice how bending over to put socks on starts to get more challenging?)
When body posture improves our internal organs can function more efficiently so there is a flow on effect from outside to inside.
2. Yoga Helps You to Breathe Correctly
Did you know we use around 30% of our lung capacity during most activities? When we are not aware of how we breathe – or even that we can breathe differently – our bodies can take on patterns of physical restriction. Short breath, rounded shoulders, tight chest, foggy mind.
Yoga opens us up, teaches us to coordinate breath and this helps us feel great! In fact learning about our breath is one of the key factors in addressing anxiety and depression, which is rapidly becoming one of the biggest health crisis in the world.
The more oxygen we start to move into our bodies the more efficiently we release the carbon dioxide we create. All our necessary systems start to function more efficiently – respiratory, endocrine (hormonal), cardiovascular, lymphatic and nervous systems.
Yoga is like a cleansing process for the internal body.
3. Yoga Makes You Self Aware
Feel like you are the rubber duck being tossed around the whirlpool of the bathtub as the water drains out? Metaphor for life here!.
When we do yoga we have to stop, be with our self, notice our body, our thoughts. As we settle into this awareness we can start to see where we are holding physical tension. Or unhelpful attitudes. What manifests in the physical body is often a result of something more internal or unseen.
Thought processes and patterns might pop up and wave little flags at us asking for attention. If you have been too busy on the outside to give them attention, the practice can be a great place to do it. Although this can sound daunting, it is actually the most valuable aspect of the practice – you learn about yourself and what feels right for you.
Yoga asks us to create focus and a benefit of this is that we cultivate a sharper mind. An engaged and active mind is essential for us as we get older.
4. Yoga Releases Stress
Who can’t do without this one, right? We all have stress.
Something magical happens when we engage body, breath and mind in this activity called yoga. We start to relax. The fundamentals of why this happens are too big to write about here, suffice to say yoga activates our parasympathetic nervous system (‘rest and digest’) through the combination of postures and breath focus. (A side effect is it promotes restful sleep!)
Suddenly the outside world doesn’t matter that much when you are on the mat. Here and now is the focus. Things fall away that are not important. This thing called ‘clarity’ starts to emerge. And tension lets go. What a gift!
And over time yoga can teach you how to rest. Who would have thought we need to learn that? A side effect of modern life is that we don’t take enough time out to rest. So our body is constantly under stress (‘fight or flight’) through sleep deprivation, loss of energy, negativity, trying to keep up with life… a down hill spiral that can rapidly pick up speed. The path to illness can be just over the horizon.
When we lie on the mat at the end of the practice in savasana (corpse pose) we ask our body to do nothing. What a luxury! (For many people this is the favourite part of the practice – although you aren’t technically meant to be sleeping here!).
But what’s not to love about self nurturing? You need to put your self first in order to be of benefit to others.
5. Yoga Can Relieve Pain
Have an injury from sport, or chronic pain from other conditions? Life can be a struggle when we are in pain. There is no ease in body or mind.
Pain is a messenger that we need to act in some way.
I’ve had so many experiences of people coming to class with pain that has been ‘fixed’ by regularly attending yoga (refer back to point 1 and reversing body patterns!).
To do this, yoga uses the whole body in the practice – it works less on isolating different parts like many other exercise modalities. For this reason our weight is shifted more evenly and with greater awareness, movement is controlled and support is built in a way that benefits the physical system holistically and totally.
In a good yoga class there will always be options – so if that knee just doesn’t bend that way then there will be another variation for you!
Yoga allows you to become your own healer – of course you may still need the help of modalities like physiotherapy or osteopathy from time to time. Yoga gives you the gift of supporting your own health through consistent practice. (In fact, the ancient yogi-s believed healing comes from within).
Self empowerment at work!
There is nothing to lose by taking the step to start yoga (or to return if the practice has slipped).
A Beginners Course is ideal for this as you begin to practice at a starting point that is manageable and realistic. So step onto the mat and take in the benefits!
written by Jill Harris – (Jill is taking the upcoming 9.30am Tuesday Beginners Course.)
Kyo Yoga is offering two Beginners Courses this term commencing Tuesday April 30 – 9.30am and 6.00pm.
Book in here or give Lou a call to discuss – 0438 562 723.