Updated: Oct 28, 2022
The benefits of practicing yoga are many and far reaching. They are profound, they are measurable, and they are why the global yoga phenomenon is still going strong.
You can read about the physical and scientific benefits of yoga here, but in this piece I would like to share with you a slightly different take, explaining my personal experience and how yoga, for me, is the springboard into fitness and wellness. It has led me to where I am today; passionate about wellbeing and wanting to encourage anyone I can to move their bodies more and feel the difference that even small changes can make.
I am fortunate that my mother was ahead of her time in pretty much every aspect of health and wellness, meaning that at 9 years old I was already being taken to the weekly yoga classes in our local village hall. There were no fancy mats, essential oil diffusers or mood lighting back then – it was down to business old school yoga where I brought down the average age rather drastically and there was not a man in sight.
The first few weeks I found the entire experience rather odd; weird postures, loud breathing, and funny chanting at the end, however it always amazes me how quickly things become “the norm.” Before long I was really getting the hang of it and, having the flexibility that a 9-year-old does, the postures came naturally, and I started to really look forward to yoga night.
Years passed and inevitably my yoga journey had its ebbs and flows like most things in life. Sometimes I would be practicing daily, sometimes I wouldn’t get my mat out for a few weeks or more. The difference I felt on the days I’d practiced yoga however, compared to those I hadn’t, was so very tangible that it made me certain that yoga is a necessary part of my life and should be for everyone.
This led me to go to Mysore in India, the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga, and do a rather rigorous teacher training course. I wanted the knowledge to be able to share with others what I felt lucky to have been exposed to in my childhood. I didn’t want to come back being able to fold in half or be able to stand on my head for an hour, in fact quite the contrary – I wanted to be qualified to share with others how yoga is not about looking beautiful in a posture or being the bendiest in the class, it’s about moving and stretching your body, whatever that stretch or movement looks like for you. The amount of people who’ve told me they can’t do yoga because ‘they’re not flexible’, I could scream! If you are a healthy individual but your body can’t move and flex, then you need to teach it to move and flex. Yoga is for you!
I will finish up by sharing how yoga helps me:
It stops my mind from wandering and makes me feel calm.
It makes me feel reassured and grounded – when I’m on my familiar mat, just me and my body, all my anxieties fade.
If I’m having a tired day and can’t find the energy to go for a run or do a hiit class, then I don’t stress because I can always do some yoga that’s appropriate for how my body feels that day.
At the end of a yoga practice, lying in savasana, the feeling of complete contentment across my body makes me grateful I made the effort.
The days I don’t practice, my lower back niggles me and my hips are stiffer. Problem areas can be helped so much by relevant postures.
For me, yoga is the base from which to practice whatever activity or sport you love. Yoga has taught me to know my body, know my limits and, most importantly, listen to these. Thanks to this, I live a very active lifestyle doing spin, Pilates and hiit classes as well as hiking, skiing and running. I feel that I do all of this more safely, more knowledgeably and with more awareness thanks to yoga.
Curious how yoga can improve your skiing? Find out why skiers should practice yoga!
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