3 things I've found on my Yoga Journey

Monday, 28 April 2014

I've been practising yoga for almost 15 years, during which it's become an increasingly important part of my life. At the moment I'm going to a weekly class, which despite being at 9am on a Sunday morning, I rarely miss. I also do self practice at home. I've been on two retreats in Lanzarote and Greece, both fantastically down to earth and life affirming experiences, where I met some wonderful people who I'm still in touch with now.

But to me, it's more than going along to classes. Once I became familar with the asanas (the positions), I began to notice other benefits, which are the things that keep bringing me back to yoga in different areas of my life.

Here are the three most important benefits for me:

Yoga requires a surprising amount of strength as well as flexibility. You don't actually need to have much of either of these to practise, but it helps to increase the benefits if you do. I find that combining yoga with strength training in the gym has significantly increased my ability in asanas requiring upper body strength (plank position in particular). I've also reduced the distances I do in heels during the working week, changing into flats if I'm going to be walking a lot, which has helped with my tight hamstrings ~ now I can almost get my feet flat to the floor in downward dog position!

Yoga balance poses in particular require concentration and focus. I find that if I have a lot of stuff going on in my head I'm less able to stay in the positions and I wobble all over the place. In fact, I've come to measure the calmness of my mind by how well able I am to balance in yoga! Falling over? Need to chill out and focus. This is a useful skill in other aspects of life from staying upright on the tube without holding on(!) to keeping cool when the pressure's on at work. Breathe, focus, breathe, breathe, breathe...

This is something that's come to me more recently in my practice. Being present in the moment and switching off to everything else doesn't always come easily to me, but yoga has really helped to increase my mindful awareness. The ability to just 'be' on my mat without distractions and let my body guide me through the asanas is so grounding and energising. In fact this is what gets me to that 9am Sunday class every week! So many times I've arrived feeling tired, with no motivation, only to leave full of energy and optimism, ready for the day ahead.

And so the journey continues. It's not about perfecting or achieving, it's about learning and listening to myself. I know that yoga is something I'll continue with all my life. 

Have you tried yoga? Would you like to start? I'd love to know!

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