I feel like yoga sometimes gets a bit of a bad rep for being portrayed as a “cure-all” for everything – so I’ll preface this post by saying that is definitely not what I’m trying to say here.
That said, I’ve been practising yoga regularly now for the past 4 months or so.
In fact, it’s been a bit of an on-again-off-again love affair for almost 2 years now.
Yoga is one of those things I know is good for me, and I’ve never had a session I regretted, but sometimes what’s good for me is exactly what I choose not to do.
A quick Google search will have you inundated with the physical benefits of yoga; regular yoga can increase your flexibility, improve circulation, improved cardio health, and ease the pain in the hips, neck and back.
It also boasts a host of mental benefits; it can centre your attention, relieve stress, and improve sleep.
Personally, I’ve found yoga to be an excellent form of meditation for me. When I focus on regular practice, I’ve really learned a lot about myself and my body.
Ten Things I’ve Learned From Regular Yoga Practice
Sometimes for me, showing up is the hardest part. The same applies for me when it comes to eating healthily, walking to work, going to the gym, paying my bills and washing my hair. Things that are good for us are sometimes the hardest, and yoga is no exception for me.
That said, it’s taught me to toughen up on myself – sometimes you have to be firm and do the things you know are good. Yoga always feels good to me, I always feel better afterwards and I genuinely cannot remember regretting a session. It’s taught me to discipline myself and push myself to feel better, even when I don’t want to.
I know it never feels bad, but sometimes yoga can be damn challenging. Progress can be slow, and there are days you can’t always do something that you managed yesterday. But doesn’t that sound like life? It’s taught me to be patient in waiting for progress to happen, and to accept that sometimes it’s slow.
More importantly, being patient with myself has come away from the mat with me and into other areas of my life too.
To Control My Anxiety
I don’t make it any secret that I’ve suffered pretty badly from anxiety in the past, and it’s something that still rears it’s ugly head from time to time.
Yoga has been kind to me in teaching me to breathe through things – one of my main reactions to stress is to stop breathing properly. I hold my breath in my chest until I’m dizzy, and tend to hyperventilate.
Yoga has taught me to override that urge. The difference in my reactions now is, frankly, unbelievable. A little bit of focus on my breath can pull me out of most stressful situations now and creates enough space for me to cope properly.
Sometimes I need a bit of Yoga with Adriene in my life to tell me what’s what, and other times I favour a bit of free flow.
Most recently, I like loud music and incense to burn while I freestyle, and I’ve found myself playing with the movement. I recently heard about Yogance, which is essentially a cross over between the two mediums and it is powerful. It loosens you up, can be fun as hell and truly lets you bring some creativity to the mat.
Yoga requires some focus because if you’re not concentrating, there’s a strong chance you’ll fall on your face. It’s a kind of focus that has come off the mat with me too – I’m getting much better at ~getting in the zone~ to write, work, or generally just get stuff done.
Physically, of course, yoga pushes you to practice balance often. What I wasn’t expecting was the mental balance that came with it. The extra focus, sense of calm and patience not just with myself, but with others, has left me feeling much more balanced mentally, too. I’m less snippy now, more in control of my emotions and I feel more inclined to do what’s best for myself.
To Let It Go
I can hold a grudge like no other. I can cling and cling onto an issue until it’s so disproportionately terrible I’ll be a wreck. Yoga, thankfully, has taught me to let some things go. There’s a lot to be said for being able to sit and work through your feelings and still come out the other side feeling good, and it’s a skill I’m regularly practising with yoga.
To Challenge Myself More
On, and off the mat. I’ve learned to push myself into more complex poses, take risks I wouldn’t usually dare to, and really push myself to be better each and every time. This has come with me to other areas – to try that new thing out, to write more about what I actually like, to stop fearing judgement if I do.
Just a few weeks ago I had a huge breakthrough and managed to get into wheel pose for the first time, and the constant “working-on-it” attitude has taught me a lot about my own abilities.
To Be Gentle
With my breath, with my body, with myself. Doing things slowly and gently isn’t always a bad thing. I’m learning to calm the “all guns blazing” side of myself and to be softer with myself. It’s been so worth it.
To Go With The Flow
In both a physical and metaphorical sense. I’ve stopped fighting myself on the mat so much and it’s brought so much progress, but this is also true in life. I’m slowly starting to allow what works and what doesn’t to flow in and out of my life, and it’s changed my direction so much. Things feel much less forced now, I’m lighting up doing things I love, and I’m learning to navigate the slightly less exciting stuff too.
Do you practice yoga at all? What has it taught you?