We all know that it's a good thing to eat a healthy, wholesome diet, to manage stress and to move our bodies and that there are so many wonderful, fun ways to exercise; pilates, gymnastics, running, cycling, swimming or football, the list goes on. I've recently been inviting the people in my sessions to consider as an intention for their practice the reasons they come to their mat. This has led me to thinking that they could all just as easily join in a spinning class or go rock climbing to get their bodies moving, blow away some cobwebs and work towards a achieving or maintaining a health body shape.
Don't get me wrong, yoga can and will do all of these things for you and so much more. Yes, there's more. Even more than I've detailed below. Some of these may surprise you so let's start with the obvious:
- Improved stress management Practicing yoga is an excellent way for people to be able to manage stressful situations. If you read my previous newsletter, you may have 'enjoyed' my little science rant about the nervous system and the body's stress response. Taking time to pause, move mindfully and take a deep breath will really work wonders for all of your body systems, including the immune, digestive, reproductive systems, not to mention the benefits to your mental health, skin and general sense of well-being. Want some more info? Let's talk, but be prepared because it's my favourite subject and if you happen to be a donkey, be very mindful of your legs. Practicing being able to bring your attention to your breath during your yoga class can also be hugely beneficial when you're not on your mat and you're faced with a difficult decision or situation. Always come back to your breath.
- Improved sleep quality I just luurrrvvve savasana; both practicing it and leading it. The realisation that there's nothing that I need to do is just one of my favourite parts and of course, it can make you sleepy, but having a regular physical (asana) practice can honestly help you stack up Z's when you get home.
- A sense of being part of the bigger picture The word yoga is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word "yui" which means to yoke or unite. Regardless of race, gender or religion, we all share this beautiful planet with some truly remarkable creatures from the teeniest, tiniest insects to the largest of mammals. Small, seemingly insignificant blades of grass to huge great magnificent trees. We all live together. We are part of the universe and therefore the universe is part of us and so it makes sense to treat our home and fellow beings with kindness, respect and love. If this is all sounding a bit 'hippy' for you, as my son would say, perhaps you can identify with how you feel towards your fellow yogis as you finish a class; a little bit more connected? Maybe the sensation that you've had a shared experience? It's worth noticing how you feel the next time you put your mat away.
- Non-attachment This sounds like a bit of an odd reason for 'Why Yoga?' but thinking of the bigger picture; everything is temporary and nothing is permanent. Does anything really belong to you? All very deep philosophical questions that can sometimes make my brain ache a little bit, BUT consider your feelings and emotions. One day you may wake up in a foul mood; having a regular yoga practice helps us to know that this dark mood is just a feeling. Feelings pass; they are not permanent. Neither are the joyful moods of glee. The human experience is to notice and enjoy each moment as we live it rather than to worry about past or future events. Come on Elsa, sing it with me "Let it go, let it goooo!" (HUGE apologies if I gave you an earworm with that Disney song :-) !!)
- Time just for you How often do you bring yourself to a place of stillness and quiet or take time just to focus on how your breath is coming into your body? Or to focus on how your hips move as you walk up the stairs? Or the way your shoulders feel when carrying a heavy bag as opposed to when your hands are empty? I'm guessing not often. Speaking just for myself, I very rarely sit down to do 'nothing' without having my internal voice telling me that actually, I should be folding the laundry or reading that very important text book. Feelings of guilt can sometimes get in the way of your you time. "Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are" says yoga teacher and authorJason Crandell
Oh dear me, I do have a lot to say sometimes. (Sorry, Mr Donkey)