Is it just me, or does the entire world seem to be having a love affair
In the last few years, everyone from celebrities and professional athletes to average men and women and even hard-core gym junkies has been drawn to this ancient form of movement and mindfulness.
Personally, I wasn’t always sold. As someone who has worked in the fitness and health industry for nearly two decades, I could never understand why gym members would be lining up for classes early, clutching their yoga mats to make sure they scored a space. I remember thinking to myself, “If I only had an hour to work out I would be making sure it involved cardio and strength training. No way would I waste my time on yoga!”
That was, until I found my teacher and a style of yoga that challenged every aspect of my body and woke up my entire being. I had spent years in the gym back squatting, lunging, deadlifting and running to get stronger and more fit, yet within about 12 minutes of my first real yoga class I could barely hold chair pose. My thighs were on fire, I was sweating buckets, my heart rate was up and my mind was trying to figure out any possible way to get out of there. But I didn’t. I stayed and struggled my way from one posture to the next, starting to feel the release of tension and compression throughout my body; I immediately felt more length and space in areas that I had been shortening from so many years of lifting.
Over time, I became extremely focused in my practice and soon began studying to become a teacher. After 17 years of practice and owning my own studio, I owe yoga for everything it has done, not only for my own body, but also for those of my clients and students. Yoga teaches proper breathing to reduce stress and find inner balance within each pose. It strengthens you from head to toe and increases your body’s kinesthetic awareness (your body’s weight in space). It helps to increase your range of motion and function, aids with flexibility, muscular endurance and prevents injury. There isn’t a single part of your body that isn’t engaged or in alignment within your practice; as soon as one aspect of your body or mind wanders you will feel it immediately by either falling over, losing quality of form or feeling compression where there should be none.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up my training in the gym. On the contrary, my weight room game has improved significantly since I started doing yoga. My squats and deadlifts are more proficient and my post-workout recovery time has shortened. What’s more, I sleep deeper and am more capable of managing stress, both of which can translate into an amazing workout. Incorporating yoga into my strength training lifestyle has been one of the most profound shifts, not only in my body but also in my life.
Yoga can be practiced in any space at any time with very little equipment. All you need is comfy clothes, a mat and an open mind. There are many different styles of yoga in the world today, so taking your time to try different classes and instructors is recommended. Just remember that whatever style you do, whether it’s in a studio or in your living room, there is no competition, no judgment and no perfection. After all, that’s why we call it a practice.
Start your yoga journey now with these postures for beating stress.