I’ll be the first to admit (unless you’ve met anyone who knows me) that I’ve turned into quite the yoga wanker. Assuming that the universally accepted definition of an anything wanker is someone with average ability in a given thing but who does not let that stop them banging on about how transformative and beautiful it is, or how their new superpower is extreme zen, or wears chakra balancing bracelets, or chucks phrases like ‘evangelical about yoga’ on their professional networking bios [For the love of Buddha someone ask me SOMETHING about yoga. LOVE ME]. I digress.
Because I bang on about it incessantly, I’m often asked what’s the point? What’s in it for me? Why should I bother? Does it really count as a workout? Yes mother, it does.
As a long term dabbler, I’ve only really committed to regular (almost) daily practice in the last year or so. The renegade master that I am splits this practice between self guided, good old Adriene and classes at a studio around the corner from my home. It was unintentional for my practice to become daily but it turns out yoga is pretty damn addictive, those days on which I can’t squeeze in even a quick ten minutes, my karma is all kinds of out of kilter. There are some obvious benefits, some less so and some I’ll leave you to find out for yourself (because a little mystery makes the world go round).
Mind Over Matter Let’s get this one out of the way early on. It’s a pretty powerful one but it’s also the one that makes me sound most like a joss stick wielding, tie dye wearing, age of Aquarius sort. The acceptance that your mind is your limiting factor rather than your physical ability is a little bit magical. It shouldn’t be particularly revelatory but somehow it is and it takes a while to get ones head around. Acknowledging that your mind will give up long before your body is too tired to carry on is all empowering and has pushed me to achieve things I never would have before. Like levitation*
Posture As a classic nine to fiver, I’m about six hours away from being Quasimodo at any given time. By strengthening everything around your core and lengthening muscles where it matters, regular practice will encourage you to hold your body properly wherever you spend most of your day. Fewer aches and pains and no hunchbacks – winner.
Stress Relief The focus on the breath/body connection is at the core of yoga practice and being able to drop into your body whenever you need to is quite the game changer. It doesn’t take very long for a habit to form and the more you practice this the more you’ll be able to use it in your day to day life – switching from the thinking brain to the present moment as and when you want to. You may not realise it during the journey but all of a sudden you’ll find yourself breathing through something that may have otherwise thrown you off your game when you’re nowhere near your yoga mat. So yeah….yoga teaches you how to breathe and breathing big and deep reduces stress. Ground breaking.
Muscle Tone No matter where your starting point is, yoga is a full body experience. I am currently the leanest, most toned version of me I’ve ever been and the muscle I’m flashing about the place is 100% down to yoga. Those tiny little abs visible on a new moon when you squint a bit, the bicep I hit a waiter with when flexing for my friend- all yoga. Regardless of whether you think that looks better, feeling strong and healthy is not to be sniffed at.
A Positive Outlook 70% increase in endorphins, 20% reduction in cortisol release 10% zen by osmosis. Taking time to set an intention for your practice, throwing yourself in fully and realising an hour later that you haven’t spent a single moment of that time ruminating on what happened today or what might happen tomorrow or what happened 16 years ago in the classroom is a beautiful thing. We can talk about the benefits of meditation another day but the ability to spend an hour focused, engaged and entirely in the present is a gift not to be squandered. And who doesn’t want to give themselves a gift every day!? It is hands down (bum up) the kindest thing I’ve done for me.
Flexibility Turns out if you bend and stretch more, you generally become bendier and stretchier. SHOCKER. Whilst that should never be the goal and we all know that comparing ourselves to the most bendy and stretchy insta-bod we know is of the devil, it’s a very nice side effect of pushing your own boundaries as far as you are comfortable with. Increased flexibility and mobility will serve all of us well now, in the very distant future and everything in between.
Perfection is not the goal As true in yoga as in real life, the aim is to move in a way that feels good and appropriately challenging for you. If you can do this physically, it isn’t a huge stretch to engage your thinking brain in this way of operating. Letting go of the need to be perfect and embracing whatever the hell you are is so very freeing. Remove expectation from yourself and those around you and see how much more satisfying your little world becomes.
Regular practice will also make you more relaxed, a little bit kinder and at least 79% better in the sack. Probably. Are you a zen master or a newbie yogi? I’d love to know about your journey.
*not levitation but I can run a lot further than I ever could and hills are a lot easier these days.