Ahh yoga, my long-time love. Like any relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs but now we’re solid, and I couldn’t be happier!
I discovered yoga roughly ten years ago after picking up a guided yoga DVD on a whim when looking for something new to try that I could do in the comfort of my room without needing expensive equipment.
My first few attempts consisted of me getting annoyed that I couldn’t pose ‘properly’ and didn’t really understand what I was doing, and being the impatient 17-year-old that I was I quickly retired the DVD and mat to back of my wardrobe and wrote yoga off completely.
I picked it up again when joining a gym six years later and took a few classes but I didn’t feel the calm and relaxed feels that were promised. Instead, I was so concerned by how my body looked when surrounded by what like hundreds of mirrors and spectators, I did two classes and never went back.
Just two years later, I rolled out my mat again and attempted to follow various instructional videos until landing on the channel and teacher that have completed revolutionised my practice – Adriene Mishler, from Yoga with Adriene.
I’m going to insert a snippet from her website below, because I think this paragraph describes what yoga is better than I ever could:
‘Yoga is really the art of waking up. Getting back to the true you. It can be that simple. Yoga offers up a way for us to see a world that is working for you instead of against you. Yoga reminds me that everything is connected so we must live, act, dance, breathe with awareness. If the journey really is the reward, then by golly I choose to enJOY the journey. I hope you will join me.’
Her tutorials and guidance have taught me that yoga can be freeing, and is about having fun and doing what feels good – you won’t find any rigid poses or strict breathing techniques here. I’ve used yoga for weight loss to tone up and improve my general fitness, yoga for anxiety to calm myself down and yoga for sadness to help clear my head and get me back on track.
If you want to start practising I would 100% recommend that you check her out here, but for now here are 10 reasons why you should step on the mat.
Quiet your mind
If someone had told me before I’d started that I would feel complete inner peace (even if only for ten minutes) I would have laughed in their face. It took a few conscious attempts to clear my mind during various flows before I finally experienced it – not a single thought or overriding emotion running through my head, absolutely nothing but focus on that moment when everything felt numb, but in the best way possible. Yoga is an excellent tool for soothing an overworked mind and once you master it you’ll find it comes naturally to you.
Yoga is the most basic workout, involving throwing a few shapes and slowly ‘relaxing’ through a flow, right? Wrong! On average, for an hour of vinyasa practise I burn around 500 calories, and roughly half of that if I do a less strenuous hatha routine for the same amount of time.
If you still don’t believe me, trying holding a plank for roughly 30 seconds, then move into a side plank for 15, before coming back to a regular plank . Then repeat for the other side of your body without any rest period. Feel that burn? Imagine incorporating that three times over into a fast paced flow, and you’ll soon get a feel for what I mean!
Going hand in hand with the above, yoga is fantastic for toning up without realising that you’re doing it. Many poses require you to support your body weight for periods of time – I’m still learning to master crow pose (bakasana) but knowing that I can hold up my own body weight on my arms for even just ten seconds blows my mind. If you keep up with it, you might notice that you feel stronger and that your muscles are a little more defined and shaped – bonus!
Not only does yoga help to quiet your mind, but it can be a big booster for your mental health. Creating a calm and safe environment on your mat is a must for every practise, and a good session can help to brighten even the darkest of days and leave you feeling positive and ready to face whatever life has to throw at you. If you want to go a little more in-depth here (yay science!) studies have shown that yogis have a significantly increased amount of the amino acid GABA. That particular amino acid is super important for the brain and helps to promote feelings of calm inside the body. It’s also worth noting that low GABA levels are often associate with anxiety and depression, so yoga really can help cure here.
Exercising when you’re hurting might seem like the last thing that you want to do, but controlled stretching of the muscles and a restorative routine can help with both long-term and short-term physical pain. You could try a full body practise, or target an area of your body at a time until you find some relief.
A top tip for women here – yoga can seriously help soothe period pain to the point of easing it off completely – trust me on this one.
No age limits
There is no real age limit for yoga – from baby yoga to pensioner yoga, anyone can be a yogi!
If you’re plagued with insomnia or just having trouble sleeping, some relaxing yoga can really help bring on a restful sleep. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day and are finding it hard to wind down, dedicate just ten minutes before bed for a practise such as this one (7 Minute Bedtime Yoga – Yoga With Adriene) and you might find yourself drifting off a lot quicker than you ever thought possible.
This one is probably the best thing that I’ve gotten out of yoga so far – feeling good (sometimes even great) about my body! Even when I’m on my own and I throw on my stretchy pants and gym shirt I feel super self-conscious, but this melts away during my practise and I don’t focus on the bad so much. Instead of avoiding looking at myself in a mirror as I cycle through poses, I’ll check my stance and positioning and sometimes even mentally drop myself a compliment along the way. It’s an ongoing lesson, but yoga is teaching me to respect my body for the things it can do rather than hate myself for the things I’m not – and I’m more than okay with that.
My balance used to be absolutely abysmal, but with regular practise I think it’s finally safe to say that it is on the up. Working on a strong foundation is key and I’ve found that my balance has improved by repeating the transition into different yoga poses, rather than the poses themselves. I’ve also seen an improvement in my co-ordination, body awareness and posture and these things still apply when I step off the mat.
Most of the above are all rolled into this key reason, and if for nothing else I think that this one might be the most important. Having something positive to focus on and knowing that at least once a day you can do something to improve your mood and lift your spirits can make a huge difference. Be kind to your mind and body and allow yourself time to practise and open up and you might just kick off a healing process that you never really knew you needed.
And that concludes my top ten reasons that yoga rocks!
Still not sure if yoga is for you, or are you a total convert and master yogi and want to meet others who love it like you do?
Amazingly, I have two pairs of weekend passes to give away to the OM Yoga Show in Manchester this weekend (19th – 21st). All you need to do is post a tweet including #omyogacr and follow @calamity_ray on Twitter to be in with a chance of winning! This give-away is open to both entries from Rafflecopter below, or just on Twitter – make sure to use the above hashtag to get your entry recognised.
Tickets will be sent electronically to the winners, entries close at 12am on 17th May and winner will be announced at 7am 18th May.