My yoga practice is mine, all mine… and it’s completely changed my life, without much effort at all.
I guess I’ve always had the wrong idea about what yoga was and what it did for you. I assumed it was better in a structured way, in a classroom setting, or much worse, a heated, stuffy room. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Hot Yoga is good for you. But as someone that despises the heat… I’ll leave that to the yoga enthusiast.
Everyday my yoga routine is a little different. Some days, I do a long, cardio intensive routine… other days, my routine consists purely of movements that resemble variations of corpse pose, childs pose or any other pose that doesn’t require me to move or open my eyes.
The best thing about it… it’s MY practice, and MY routine.
So, how has something so simple, so accommodating, so relaxing changed my life for the better?
1. Oxygen is life… Learn how to breathe again.
Something so simple, yet we take it for granted. Have you ever paid attention to your breathing? Like, truly paid attention to it? How deeply do you breathe? Do you hold your breath?
You can go for extended periods without food or even water, but we can’t survive minutes without oxygen. Think about that…. If you don’t breathe, you die. What happens if you don’t breathe well? What happens if you’re not getting the right amount or the right quality of oxygen when you are breathing? Have you ever considered that? I hadn’t.
Yoga has helped me realize how important it is to fully breathe in, and to fully exhale out.
It’s also helped me to realize how often I don’t do that, throughout the day. I frequently find myself amped up, irritated and breathing shallow, or slouched over a computer, restricted in breath.
2. Posture improvements
Don’t get me wrong, I was FULLY and painfully aware of my posture issues. My chiropractor had done well with my terrible posture.
Posture is so crucial too a successful yoga practice. Many of the movements are not about the move, but the still. It’s about the balance in a hold, or the successful bloodflow in a hold.
The other day, I looked over in the mirror, while I sat at a table, and I noticed that my posture was completely different than I’m used to seeing! My natural position was different because of my focus on correct posture in my yoga practice.
3. Sleep improvements
Have you ever gotten out of bed, rubbing your neck or holding your lower back (as if that was the fix to what you were feeling) and announced having ‘slept wrong’?
I have… and I’ve donated many hours to the pain and hassle of “sleeping wrong”.
One day, as I was explaining my misuse of 14 inches of foam, to my massage therapist, he explained to me how “sleeping wrong”, was simply not a thing….
What did he know?
Since following multiple inspiring Yogi’s on social media, I have since discovered that my massage therapist was correct. It occurred to me, as I watched people fold themselves into seemingly impossible positions, I was completely wrong. I wasn’t sleeping wrong… I was just stiff!
Don’t skip this one, as you read the title and say, “duh”. Because I know what you’re thinking… Obviously yoga makes you more flexible… so?
And then I installed a roof. Yeah, that’s right… I was installing a roof, in my yoga pants, dancing circles around my teenage son. His movements were stiff, and he was sooooo slow. As I crawled back and forth, reaching, tossing heavy shingles, swinging the hammer, walking up and down the poorly situated ladder, before I quit to make dinner…. feeling physically great… I realized that my flexibility wasn’t just about reaching my toes, it’s about the range of motion!
I never realized how much of my days were spent in limitation, or feeling exhausted, simply because my body was stiff. I didn’t even think I was stiff, I’ve always been much more flexible than most. Well… until I started following yogi’s. In comparison, I may still be the tin man.
Quieting the mind and focusing on movement, posture and breath, truly makes the whole practice more effective, for all the reasons mentioned above.
Meditating has also given me the ability to calm my mind when anxious, sleepless or overworked. I used to feel like I was suffocating when I meditated… now, it’s my favorite time of day, because I know that in that time… I’m giving my body and mind the respect that I KNOW I deserve!
6. Learning Self Care
As a workaholic, I can’t tell you how bad my self care was.
Don’t get me wrong, I showered every day, never missed a hair appointment, or left my nail polish chipped. My hair and makeup was the first part of my day and my appearance was never without the matching clothes, jewelry and shoes.
My biggest issue was that I didn’t make time for nutritious foods, and working out was back burnered on a nearly daily basis. Sleep happened after my work was done at night, but I’d often wake up early and react to my phone before both eyes were open. I wore a watch to alert me to every email and text, so that I would never let a work opportunity go by.
My SELF…. that came after work.
One of the best things that has come from my yoga routine, is the self respect, reflection and care that I’ve learned. I’ve even sold my buzzy little work watch. I look at my phone plenty. There is nothing that can’t wait till the next time I look at my phone.
7. Strength and weight loss
I saved it for last because it just seems so obvious… but it still warrants mentioning.
I assume that most people probably get in to yoga because they find a good work out studio and they want to lose weight and get stronger. That was part of the reason I looked into it originally, sure.
Surprising, it wasn’t the weightloss that I noticed first. It was the shape of my body. It wasn’t that the scale dropped, it was that my silhouette was different in the mirror. It was that my pants fit differently. When I sat down, I didn’t feel like all the goo just spread out… I felt like my thighs were holding shape, my back was straight and my stomach wasn’t hiding my waistband anymore.
Since we were also remodeling a house, I also noticed that I had no issue holding up boards, helping to install cabinets, or even carrying bags of mortar or drywall mix.
What have I learned about my Yoga Practice?
I’ve experienced a lot of changes, mostly falling into one of these categories… but remember what I said… My practice is MINE…. I don’t follow a flow that I’ve memorized. I don’t do the same thing every day and honestly, some days an onlooker might even be tempted to poke me, just to confirm I haven’t fallen asleep.
My Yoga routine is not impressive. I’m not going to be flaunting my mid section on how to videos any time soon. But one of the most important things I’ve learned is that it’s called a practice for a reason. Every day is a new opportunity for me to practice breathing better, sitting straighter, stretching further or just giving myself the respect of self care for a few minutes.
And every day that I practice… I’m better for it.
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