Why practice Yoga? Or maybe you’re still wondering, what is Yoga?
Yoga is a lot of things, and it can vary from person to person. The word, yoga, derives from the Sanskrit word for union. And in the practice of yoga, we bring together the mind and the body through a combination of breathing techniques and postures. This union allows us better awareness, enriched living and health.
There are a wide variety of traditions, and the individual experience is quite personal and not the same for each of us. However, many of us (millions around the world), use yoga regularly to enhance our lives. We use it for fitness and wellness, to stress and anxiety relief. We use it for mental clarity and peace of mind, to spiritual growth and inner calm. How you use yoga is unique to you, but if you do, you can be sure to reap some amazing benefits from it.
There is scientific proof to many of these benefits, and you can read about those here. That proof had nothing to do with why I started or why I continue to practice yoga.
I always enjoyed being active as a kid, and worked to maintain that in my adult life. However, there was a long period of time, about a decade, where my options were limited. I had Muscle Compartment Syndrome in both of my shins and went from being a competitive cross country runner, to barely being able to make it through a simple day hike without pain. I fell on my face more than once running and all but cut it and hiking out of my life. I was able to last a little longer using stationary bikes and ellipticals, but it wasn’t ideal. And, I didn’t have consistent access to a pool.
While struggling to figure out ways around what I saw as a limitation, it became harder for me to maintain an active lifestyle. After graduating from college I was working waaaaaay more than 40 hours a week for a non-profit. My workload made it easy to substitute exercise with late night meals with roommates, and drinking on our rooftop. I wasn’t sedentary, I enjoyed taking different group exercise classes with friends, going out dancing and walking almost everywhere I could to avoid crowded commuter lines. But, it was a drastic change from how I grew up.
Yoga and weights came to me in quite similar ways. I needed something more in my life. I needed an outlet. Something more than the casual group class with a friend. Something to enhance my life. And while I still enjoy weightlifting and am in the gym every week – yoga called to me in a very different way.
With Yoga, I find calm. I close the tabs running in my brain. I shut out the hassle of the work day. I hang up the phone lines from friends and family. I still the thoughts bouncing from one side of my head to the other. I halt my competitive nature to just be. It’s not that any of that is negative (however, let’s not lie, some days a lot of it can be), but it’s exhausting. And if all we do is let our brains run around in circles, then we’re never anything but exhausted.
I was so tired of being that type of tired. And yoga has been one of the best ways I’ve experienced to rid myself of that exhaustion. It’s not the tired we get for sleeping poorly or having a head cold. It’s the tired we get when our minds are on constant overdrive.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t take my first yoga class and find inner peace and achieve the highest level of meditation. I didn’t take my first ten classes of yoga and feel like I had found a calling. But I kept taking classes, and I continued to see the differences in my mind and health. Sometimes we need the scientific evidence to push us to finally try something new, and I love looking at the evidence too. But, I invite you to try a class, and then try a few more. Sometimes the benefits are more than just the quantifiable evidence.