Yoga, Part One.
After my midterms wrapped about, almost a month ago, I signed up for some yoga therapy. I am not at all a yoga girl. I first started practicing yoga in high school, but after a couple of sessions I realized that it wasn't for me. Too slow; I like to move when exercising. So I gave up yoga when I started my undergraduate degree and other than two experimental classes in the last 5 years, I have been yoga free. Enter CCNM and Naturopathic Medicine and all of their inspirational and motivational-ness (it inspires me to be more zen and motivates me to try new things). Also, enter the 50+ of my classmates who practice yoga (I am obviously missing something :P). Therefore I decided that this year, I would try and get on the yoga bandwagon.
Yoga is super good for stretching muscles (important when your day is mostly spent sitting/sedentary), increasing flexibility (important to maintain as we age, prevents future muscle/ligament tears and fractures as we become more brittle), and strengthening core muscles (important to maintain bone health, good posture, and to ward-off osteoporosis). I was lacking in these three departments, so I knew that yoga would be extremely beneficial to my physical health. But then what about the mental/emotional/spiritual aspect of yoga? Yoga can provide as much healing/awakening in these departments as you so choose. It can be quite zen-like if you want it to be, but it can also just be about the physical benefits too. You have the choice to make yoga what you want it to be.
Now, I've only been doing yoga for a month, so I am nowhere near an expert, nor am I a fanatic; I am just presenting on the blog my experience as a new yogi. Today I'll present the first benefit I have gained from my yoga practice: developing my breath.
Yoga focuses mainly on breathing. It is incredible how often we neglect to pay attention to this vital-to-life action. The number one benefit I've seen in my health since starting yoga is increased breath awareness. I had no idea how good deep breathing can feel. At the end of a long day, let out a deep exhalation. What releases with that breath? Physically, you are just exhaling carbon dioxide, but consider this expelling as a mental "let-go". Breath out the frustrations of the day, stale thoughts, and negativity, and chose to breath in clean, refreshing, and positive air.
Also, on the topic of breath, yoga has also taught me (in less than a month) the importance of conscious breathing. I challenge to you to take in a deep breath in and out. Did you like it? Did you really feel it? Was that the first time you've focused on your breathing today, this week, month, year, or ...ever? Controlled or focused breathing can increase mind-body awareness. How is your breathing when you are lying on the coach, doing nothing, feeling completely relaxed? Probably pretty calm. Now compare that to your breath when driving through heavy traffic? You are probably are frustrated and thus your breathing may be labored, causing less oxygen to enter the brain, inhibiting your brain functioning, and ultimately leading you to make an irrational action, such as cutting someone off and risking a car accident. If you had noticed your poor breathing and focused in on it instead--controlling it, slowing it--then you take your focus away from the negative situation; taking the time to focus on your body, on what is really important in life: your health and not the trivial traffic jam in front of you.
I have quite a few things to say about my experience with yoga, so I've decided to split them into several parts. What I hope you take away from this first post is that yoga is about much more than funky poses on a foam mat.
Image source here.