I’m up early…too early. Jet lag has well and truly taken over my body and the struggle is real. My 4am starts while everyone else is still fast asleep makes for the perfect ‘quiet’ time to reflect, blog and prepare for my body balance and yoga class in a few hours time. Once upon a time, I was one of these people who guffawed at yoga, boldly claiming it wasn’t exercise…an exercise without sweat wasn’t an exercise! But after practising it for a bit and finally mastering some of the more complicated yoga poses, I discovered that there are indeed many body balance and yoga benefits.
After months of twisted body movements and swearing under my breath while my fellow yogis centred their chi and silently shook their heads at my un-yoga-like behaviour, I’ve learnt that yoga does indeed have its benefits. These are some body balance and yoga benefits I’ve discovered on what can only be described as an interesting and varied fitness journey.
Yoga Benefit #1 – A Sense of Serenity
Be truthful, gentle and fearless – Ghandi
One of the biggest things I’ve learnt while I still struggle with bringing my body into some of the more unnatural yoga poses is that yoga’s a great thing to practice when I know there are things I can’t change…I have coffee for the rest!
I’d have to say that one of the biggest yoga benefits is the calmness and serenity it brings. Once you get past the initial forcing of your leg high up into the air until it hurts, you’ll learn how to detach, and despite the ‘pleasing’ pain yoga brings, a sense of calmness overrides the body.
Yoga Benefit #2 – A Peace of Mind
Be selective in your battles. Having a peace of mind is better than being right.
I have learnt that I am not my thoughts. Previously I was my own worst enemy, and in some cases what I thought became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
At the beginning of this year, my mind was a spinning mess…unable to sleep and concentrate at work, there were times where I thought I was going mad. One massive benefit of yoga and body balance is that it’s helped me connect to my senses – it’s given me the much-needed tools I craved to confidently steer myself through things that may have once emotionally destroyed me.
Yoga Benefit #3 – A Stress Reducer
Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are.
My first ever yoga class was intimidating. A class of very calm (almost too chilled and much older) women sat in the room, legs crossed and eyes closed in meditation before the class had even begun. This alone stressed me out even more…I had no idea how to meditate (and I still don’t…I’m a work in progress). But somehow, the whole detaching from the body helps the body and mind to relax. I personally often feel like I’m in a constant state of fight or flight, which once resulted in nighttime panic attacks, but with the process of cellular renewal in play when practising yoga, your body naturally relaxes more, which in turn obviously means less stress…I think!
Yoga Benefit #4 – Improved State of Mind
Everything is a state of mind.
Connected to the previous body balance and yoga benefits, an improved state of mind or better mental well-being would have to be up there on top of the benefits of yoga list.
In darker times, it’s so easy to get lost in the fog (I’ve been there). The lack of clarity skews everything…there was once a period when I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted or where I was going…planning 2 hours ahead was a mission in itself, but now I have a 5-year plan.
Every day we’re faced with decisions. Sometimes they’re life-changing decisions that take a whole heap of fucking courage to make; sometimes they’re as simple as what I’m going to eat for dinner. The constant decision making is stressful. Once upon a time I’d crumble…now I have more of a tendency to go with the flow – I’m a firm believer in what will be will be…to a certain extent.
Yoga isn’t a fix-it all solution, but it can help get you back on the right path. For me, it has helped push aside feelings of numbness and disconnection…
Yoga Benefit #5 – Improved Flexibility
Your body can do anything.
I have a decent amount of body strength, but my flexibility is crap…yoga’s helping! As a young girl, my flexibility was through the roof. A wanna-be ballerina in the making, doing the splits and other ballet movements that required flexibility were a walk in the park.
I have to say, although I’d love to consider myself as uber flexible still, I’m not, so another yoga benefit is that it helps regain your ability to put your body into more awkward positions…it’s practical (;-)enough said!)
Yoga Benefit #6 – Increased Body Awareness
Embrace and love your body – it’s the most valuable thing you own.
We live in a culture where we’re body-obsessed, and hands up, I’m also guilty (in the past dangerously guilty). I’m still conscious of body image, and it’s something I’m trying to work on, but yoga has helped me become more aware of my body’s capabilities, in other words it’s made me more aware of my body and what it can and can’t do as opposed to the size of my waist and my appearance in the mirror.
Yoga Benefit #7 – Strength and Pain Prevention
You must maintain the strength of body to preserve strength of mind.
Old sports injuries continue to plague me. It’ll just come out of nowhere, sometimes crippling me to the point I can’t work. The gym has been great, but without a personal trainer, I put myself at even more risk of aggravating these injuries.
My lower back has been the worst, but that’s the beauty of yoga and its benefits – it strengthens and stabilises large muscles, improving an all over body symmetry.
In short, I still would opt for a hardcore intense workout that gets the heart racing and sweat dripping, but in saying this I have become more open-minded with exercise, more specifically body balance and yoga. I wouldn’t go as far as saying yoga makes me feel complete (I still haven’t reached that point of yogi-ness), but it has helped me connect and disconnect where necessary.