September is National Yoga Month! My first encounter with yoga was in college. I was aware of it beforehand, but it was one of those things where I didn’t know I needed it until I tried it. I often shied away from trying yoga because I would see photos of crazy poses on social media, and thought, “Oh geez, I’m not that flexible, I’m going to look pathetic trying to do that.” But that was my initial misconception: yoga (or any sport, if you think about it) should not be about what other people think–it is a practice based on self-awareness and moving meditation.
- Helps you focus: Not only does yoga encourage zen and overall calmness, but it is a practice that invites you to reach a point of oneness and reminds you to stay present in the moment. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression on a daily basis, yoga has reminded me time-and-time again to remain focused on the present. It’s no secret that life can get stressful and hectic–we often think about the next task at hand or what the next day will bring, but yoga has helped me find my breath and release all the clutter in my mind.
- Builds flexibility and balance: After I tore my ACL a year-and-a-half ago, I struggled finding an activity / workout routine that made me feel comfortable with this physical setback. Because I never got it repaired, I was too scared to plant on my right leg or move laterally while playing tennis, and additionally, my knee just felt tight. I also lost a sense of balance while standing on my right leg for something as simple as a quad stretch. I decided to make yoga a part of my daily routine while recovering from this injury, and along with going to physical therapy, it helped me regain strength and flexibility in my right leg and find that balance again.
- Improves posture: This can actually go hand-in-hand with number two, but as someone who spends hours on end at the computer writing, slouching has been a separate issue I’ve been trying to improve. Yoga helps realign and lengthen the spine, so not only will it look better than slouching, but it will feel better, too!
- Improves mood: After taking a yoga class in college, I pushed myself to keep going and find a yoga studio near me because I love how it made me feel–after each class, it was as if I had a newfound burst of positive energy. While some days are tougher than others to buckle down and get out of bed, I never “regret” going to a yoga class; in fact, I always think about how I would have regretted not going. I find that the days I do just 10-15 minutes of yoga poses, I’m more at ease and just happier.
- Weight loss and toning: Another misconception of yoga is that it’s “too slow” or won’t make you sweat as much compared to strength training at the gym. Well, I’m here to debunk this misconception because when I first started yoga, there were poses we would hold for what felt like an eternity, where I would just tire out. Of course, the more you go, the more you get used to it, but there were days after a yoga class where my arms were too sore to lift, or I couldn’t even walk. The great thing about yoga is that it centers on bodyweight, so while you’re in certain positions for a certain amount of time, you’re unknowingly losing weight and toning muscles you didn’t even know you had!
For those looking for a new hobby, or seeking to step out of a comfort zone, yoga is the perfect place to start. It will push you in ways that challenges the mind and body, all while promoting healthy ways to manage mental health. Even if you need to start off slow and try YouTube yoga videos to nudge you in the right direction, just practicing 10 minutes a day can help you. Now, let me clarify, while yoga has many benefits when it comes to the mind and body, it varies for everyone, so if you’d like to share the ways yoga has helped you, please feel free to add them to the comments below!