January is the typical time of year to set goals and I have mine for 2017, but My 365 Day Yoga Challenge started last year on my birthday: 2-21-16. I challenged myself to do yoga every day for 1 year. I was beginning to see and feel the benefits of practicing yoga, so I was hoping it was something I could commit to, not just for a year, but for the long haul. What would adding more yoga to my life do for me? Outside of a couple of vacations (still did some stretching) and a few days where I just totally forgot, I think I did a pretty good job. Now that it’s been a year, I’m reflecting on why I made the pact with myself and where do I go from here.
My Personal Definition of Yoga
Yoga is an ancient Hindu philosophy that combines a physical and mental discipline that should take me away from my material world and push me to a closer union with myself and God. Practicing various postures, poses and breathing exercises will help me achieve control of my mind, body and give me some tranquility.
I know what your thinking. If I walk into Rosie’s house, she’ll be wearing long strands of beads, a headband and you will have to make your way through a cloud of incense. Ha Ha Ha. Not the case. My relationship with the practice of yoga has been at a steady pace over the years and the benefits can be felt immediately after my practice and I’m hoping for years to come.
My brother Paul (#6) gave me a Gaiam yoga CD for beginners. I think it was 8 years ago and at that time we were living in the country. Our family room had a large picture window facing east and it was there on the area rug that Barbara Benaugh taught me basic poses. No special yoga clothes, not even a yoga mat, just me by myself following Barbara’s instructions on breathing and form. It was the beginning.
From there I went to a class at the Flexible Frog Yoga Pilates Studio. Being in a class and having an instructor was definitely a new experience. I quickly saw the benefits of having a trained set of eyes help me with form and it was encouraging to be with yogis at all different levels. I tried hard to stick to 1 or 2 classes a week, but my inner ear issue was making it hard to do the quick movements with weights and Pilates, so – I was back to yoga on my own, and that was OK.
A couple of years ago the girls at ‘the club’ decided to add yoga once a week to our routine. If you can imagine, we were in the back weight room doing yoga with a classic rock station, KSHE 95 playing in the background. I guess you could say we were determined. When it was warm we even tried doing yoga at the park. Determined? Yes.
Currently, I’m practicing yoga at IBloom Yoga Studio, at home on my own and with the girls from ‘the club’. I tell people all the time how fortunate we are in our small town to have yoga available at two studios in addition to chair yoga and Tai Chi at local churches. Yes, we live in a great community!
Yoga Benefits the Body
- Flexibility This has to be my top reason for practicing yoga. I love the flexibility I’ve gained and I want to have it for years to come. The bending and movement in yoga help make your body tissue flexible. It has been said that flexibility is the #1 anti-aging benefit of yoga.
- Strengthens Bones Yoga helps to strengthen bones and no one wants fractures especially as we add years to our lives. In the practice of yoga, you are lifting and working with your own body weight. Yoga helps to strengthen your arm and calf bones which are the bones specifically prone to getting brittle. The amount of strength needed in advanced poses is impressive.
- Protects Your Spine Ashley Turner a yoga instructor and one of the CD’s we follow, talks about our spinal column being a fountain of youth. The fluid movements in yoga help water the spine, moving fresh oxygenated blood throughout. Yoga helps boost the hemoglobin and red blood cells in our body.
- Better Posture Bends and asanas (a posture in a yoga exercise) help your posture. We all know that poor posture can lead to neck, shoulder and back pain.
- Boosts Immunity When you stretch muscles and move in and out of yoga poses, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). “This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and rid our bodies of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.” (Yoga Journal)
The 5 benefits of yoga listed above are the most important to me right now. The list goes on and on including everything from lowering sugar, to brain function, to hair loss and even treating frequent urination. I will include links below for further reading.
Yoga Benefits The Mind
- Yoga is a Practice I love this. There is no judging or comparing in yoga. It’s all about bettering your own practice. With perfection not being a part of the equation, it makes yoga, just that – a practice. No finish, no graduation, just practice.
- Yoga Encourages You to Relax My brother Paul, has reminded me many times that yoga is about breathing with everything radiating from our core. You are constantly connecting your mind to your breath during poses which help you relax into the pose and even during Shavasana (corpse pose). It’s not easy to maintain the connection between mind and breath for periods of time and is something that must be practiced.
- Focus Training your mind to stay with the present and not be distracted is difficult. When you incorporate focus (drishti) into your poses you’re training your mind to stay with the present moment. For ex: while standing on one leg in tree pose and setting your gaze on a particular spot you are helping your body be present to that moment. Present to the pose, your breath and hopefully not falling. Learning to focus is a valuable lesson that we can take into everyday life situations. The practice of focused, present attention can help us in problem-solving, communicating and just – living.
- The intention I love this. Before starting a yoga practice you set an intention or dedication. An intention is something or someone that you want to think about or offer your practice to. For me, this is a prayer. Your intention is with you throughout your practice. “Setting an intention or dedication for your yoga practice acts like a metaphor to translate your practice off your mat and into your life. It is a vehicle that makes yoga an aspect of your lifestyle, rather than something you do just for exercise.” mbg
In January, my yoga instructor sent out a survey asking “what has helped you maintain a consistent yoga practice?” Of course, I responded because I was on the backend of my challenge. I believe that starting yoga on my own with a CD in the privacy of my home helped me develop consistency. It worked with my schedule and then when I was able to fit in a class I was able to see even more benefits. I’m comfortable with doing yoga on my own and disciplined enough to throw down the mat and add a CD if it’s needed.
Yoga has shown me how to appreciate my body and everything it does for me. I’ve always been interested in health and anything that fixes an ailment naturally. Yoga has heightened this desire to live a clean life and yes that includes a little wine and some sweets. I believe in balance.
I do believe that I am more present in the way I communicate. I am learning to focus more on what is happening now and to enjoy the present. Balancing poses are always a struggle for me, so I will work on focus and hopefully see some improvement.
I love what yoga has taught me about myself. It’s hard to explain but it’s amazing how it has given me confidence in many areas of my life. As I progress with poses my confidence grows. Maybe challenges are good for my personality. I’ve never considered myself competitive but maybe I am with myself and that’s probably the best person to compete with. Will I keep yoga in my life? Absolutely. I might not be crazed to practice every day, but almost. I love the statement that the yoga practice is taken from the mat into your everyday life. It’s really true. The benefits of yoga really do make it an aspect of your life and not just an exercise.
Thanks so much for reading this post. I’ve included articles below if you are interested in reading about the many benefits of yoga. What is your exercise of choice? Have you ever challenged yourself and how did it go? We would love for you to leave a message below. If you are on Pinterest, please consider pinning the picture below.
Namaste and Thanks for stopping by, Rose