When I was a kid, it seemed so much simpler to squeeze everything into one solid day – school here, homework there, sports teams, arts and crafts, hanging out with friends and alone time all seemed to fit within the confines of a 24 hour period The older I get, the more I wonder what happened to all those seemingly infinite minutes and seconds. Some days I’m the world’s youngest adult, other it feels I’m the world’s oldest child and I find that I often oscillate between the two feelings rather frequently. My mind is more reminiscent of a child, full of wonder and amazement – but my body, well – it likes to remind me that I’m getting older; and older bodies tend to pop, crack and ache far more than young ones.
Between grinding on the job, keeping up the apartment and a few hobbies which I refuse to give up – it sometimes feels hard to strike a balance that puts my mind, body and soul at ease. Between my eager drive to engage myself in what feels like every activity and an urge to fully immerse myself in the moment without anxiety, it’s a blessing that I finally discovered how to calm my nerves with yoga.
The practice itself wasn’t new for me, back when I lived in West Hollywood I found a Groupon for a place called Liberation Yoga. The studio was lovely, but dim, and the instructors were better suited for the more advanced classes – meaning I quite often felt left in the dust. When the Groupon expired, so did my presence from the facility – but my interest in yoga only grew. I got a few DVDs and a mat, searched for a few podcasts – but it wasn’t until recently, with frequency and repetition, that I’ve truly noticed a formidable change in my emotional and mental temperaments while my body relaxes and my soul expands.
As a former athlete, my body craves physical challenges like an intellectual drinks literature and eats crossword puzzles for brunch. Running can clear my mind and the gym always pumps me up, but there’s a soothing rhythm that yoga places me in for the day that’s unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Exercise shouldn’t only be good for one vertical of your ever changing reality, it must be good for all three of your bodies – your mental body, your emotional body and your physical body.
I could write a whole post just listing the health benefits of yoga – so the Cliffnotes version goes something like this: a regular yoga practice can improve flexibility and posture, increases blood flow, reduces joint inflammation, lower blood pressure, improves balance and develops muscle tone.
With the multitude of yoga studios popping up around towns like hot cakes you’ll definitely find a class that’s tailored for you, and whether you elect to join a ‘chill’ class or prefer a kickass cardio boost, you’ll get your blood pumping and heart opening in no time. Not to mention, most studios have monthly packages which give you a discount rate if you go to enough classes – my weapon of choice, if you will.
Classes themselves aren’t without their challenges, but for me that’s half the fun – daring my body to try new poses, push my mind clear of all thought and marinate in my time on the mat. Yoga naturally limbers your body, muscles, joints and all – while stretching every fiber of your being. I’ve never been more aware of the muscles in the back of my legs until I met the chair pose, and I’ve yet to find a flexibility pose that my body doesn’t melt into.
Yoga is a lot like sex ,or pizza – depending on how you view the world: it’s never bad, and you always leave feeling fulfilled. Beyond it’s physical benefits, the repeated, deep breathing paired with meditation allows your mind to enter a mindful universe where only the room, your yoga squad and your yogi reside. To be fully aware of the moment means that you need to fully engage and immerse yourself within its depths, reject anxiety and fear as unnecessary and commit to simply being while your breathing finds a resonant pattern. I always find myself walking away from class with an extra bounce in my step and a smile on my face, ready to tackle the day in a confident manner.
When we leave our egos at the door, our yoga practices have the opportunity to engage us on an emotional level. My teacher said in class this week that our practices reflect our lifestyles, If we find ourselves rushed, our practice will also be rushed; if we are aggressive with the world, we discover that we’re aggressive with ourselves in practice. For the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling with finding my internal balance, truly struggling but in beautiful dichotomy, I’ll always find a way to compromise between people, or things, or whatever. Suffice it to say, I’ve found I’m an incredibly bendy yogi that has terrible, awful balance – but as I learn to center myself within my life, I’ve found I can center myself in my practice.
Have you gone over to the yogi side? What are your favorite benefits of practicing yoga? Let me know in the comments below!