If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have noticed my “in your face” updates about my recent foray into yoga. I’ve done it on and off for years and like bleaching your upper-lip hair or a visit to the dentist it’s one of those things you just wish you’d done earlier in life. Yoga is life-changing, invigorating and something I urge everyone to try at least once. Read on to hear my case for yoga!
Strength & flexibility
Let’s talk about the physical benefits of yoga before I start to explain how much it has improved my mental state. My favourite thing to do in the gym is lift weights. I love the process, the sense of achievement and the feeling of power that comes with picking up heavy shit.
The problem for me is that I do it for a hobby, and as a result have obtained a few niggling injuries that could be helped if I had better core strength and general flexibility. I know what you’re thinking – yoga is easy, it’s just stretching! But trust me, when you wake up 24 hours after your first yoga class you’ll know for sure that it does effectively work your muscles!
Yes, you’re only using your own bodyweight for resistance but the positions and the time held in those positions is a real test for even the most confident weight-lifter. Flexibility is something I have never had, but I’m assured it’s an ability I can refine with practice and a little time. Combined with some weight-training I’m still maintaining muscle but with a focus on functional strength.
I have been a fitness freak for several years now, starting off with a cheeky Zumba class and quickly progressing to what others would deem unpleasant adventures like spinning, HIIT, weight-lifting and half-marathon training.
The thing I quickly realised was that I loved the idea of trying something new and getting better at it over time. Unfortunately in my preferred area of expertise this often led to burn out, injuries and mental torture (e.g. running. I’m talking about the repetitive, lonely, painful torture of running).
With yoga however, the scope for self-improvement seems wide and pretty welcoming. It’s not a case of doing more burpees than the person next to you, but more a case of pushing yourself a little further mentally and physically than you thought you could previously. The journey is ongoing and for me 100% internal which is a refreshing change of pace.
There seems to be a common misconception that yoga is some sort of sleep-educing witchcraft designed to send you dosing off into the best forty-winks of your life. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times in the final moments of an hour long session where I’ve been lying flat on my mat, stretched out and could’ve quite happily lay there until the gym manager peeled me off the floor at closing time.
But the general feeling at the end of a class is that of satisfaction, and for me a newfound motivation that filters through to other areas of my life. Whether I held every pose correctly or long enough is irrelevant, because for that short period of time I concentrated on only one thing and that was my attempt at doing yoga.
The ability to declutter the mind and work only on the physical task at hand is so beneficial, that I guarantee over time your stress levels will decrease, your daily focus will sharpen and your general motivation will improve. I find my motivation is at its peak just after I have practised, so I try to do classes early in the morning to get the most out of my day.
Do you practise yoga regularly, or are you tempted now?