Have you asked yourself the question why you are practicing yoga?  Maybe the answer is crystal clear to you now at the beginning of the year, since you have been without your regular studio yoga practice over the Christmas closure.  Maybe there is even more than one answer to this question.  And if you skip answering now, and come back to ponder the question later, the answer will be different.  And that’s fine, no, it’s actually brilliant.  Yoga practice is not linear, it’s patchy, it’s messy sometimes, it’s challenging, it’s loveable, it’s very much like life.  Welcome to 2017! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and relaxing holidays.  I always take this time to question why I practice as well as why I teach yoga.  Here are some of my answers.  Or perhaps you’ve been off the mat for a while and need some motivation to find your way back onto it, here are 5 reasons.  Maybe you want to convince your spouse, friend or employer to consider yoga, let them read this article.

  1. Strength – physical & mental.

Benefit number one for some, number 99 for others.  The fact is that a regular yoga practice builds up muscular strength and stamina.  Your core strength as well as your cardiovascular fitness will improve.  Especially in my yoga classes, there is a focus on core strength, as this will allow all other joint movements to be much safer and more enjoyable.  And then something magical will happen:  improved outer physical strength translates into inner strength.  The fitter and stronger we feel physically, the more stable, capable and strong we feel mentally.  Come to the mat, and experience it for yourself.

  1. Clarity & focus of mind.

In yoga practice we want to cultivate a present-moment awareness.  This in return trains our brain to concentrate and focus better.  Random thoughts become less and less, we will learn to discern between a random thought and a thought that needs further attention.  When we train our mind in that way, ordinary life distractions will be become far less impactful and the ability to direct our focus to what is important and meaningful reaches far beyond the mat.

  1. Calmness – mind and body.

Yoga is a healing practice.  With the use of the breath we are learning to find the connection of mind and body.  Unlike other movement modalities, yoga incorporates the use of the breath.  Using the breath in a smooth, even and deliberate way has a direct effect on the central nervous system.  By noticing and slowing down our breath, we are tapping into the parasympathetic response of our nervous system, or our vagus nerve.  This means we are more living in the “rest and digest” state of being, rather than the “flight and fight” mode.  So the breath is our tool to be in a more calm yet alert state of being.  The follow on effect will be reduced stress levels, improved digestive health, better sleep and so on.  Breath is what makes yoga a healing practice.  Come to the mat and befriend your breath.

  1. Increased energy, vitality and flexibility.

Our bodies are designed to move.  We are meant to walk, jump, run, twist, squat, bend and reach.  A well balanced yoga practice will make sure we include all of those movements, plus we will get upside down (invert ourselves).  So Yoga asana practice gets our heart pumping, our lymph and hormones moving to name just a few immediate internal reactions.  The immediate, as well as the long term result, will be increased energy and the feeling of increased vitality.  We also make sure that we at least keep the range of motion in all our joints, if not increase it.  You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga, flexibility will be an added benefit.  This in return will improve your posture (oops, thats another hidden benefit), resulting in improved health and wellbeing.

  1. Self development and self care.

Ok, that’s actually two benefits.  I could not decide which one was more important, and hey they are both equally developed with regular yoga practice.  Yoga is mindful movement.  We stay present or mindful to all sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise.  We don’t just get the movement over and done with while we huff and puff and let the mind wonder off.  It is this present-moment awareness, you can call it mindfulness if you like, that allows us to become aware of our innate habits, our reacting patterns.  It allows us to discover how we function on a deeper level.  For example, say a strong physical sensation is felt during a yoga pose, what happens in your mind: do you disengage, do you react with frustration, anger, fear or the like, do you look for distractions, do you let your mind get busy?  Why do you need to know?  Well, if it serves you well, keep doing it.  And if it doesn’t, change it.  Without this knowledge, or awareness, there is no freedom of choice.  And you risk running your life on auto pilot.  Also, as we stay in the present moment, and learn to breathe through these physically & mentally challenging situations, keeping our calm, we learn to do exactly that as we are faced with challenging life situations.  That’s one aspect of self development.  Yoga practice allows us to actively care for ourselves.  This care will effect change, this change will give us hope.  And hope in itself is healing.  Yoga will change your life if you let it.

Please take from this what resonates with you and let me know what you would include in that list. Thank you.  Can’t wait to practice with you in 2017!

May 2017 bring you what you deeply desire, and much health & happiness.

I added a NEW yoga class to the timetable.  More chances for you to incorporate these benefits into your life.  Join us on Monday morning 930am, starting February 6th for a yin/yang yoga practice.  Combining strength & stamina with flexibility and meditative long stretches.

See you on the mat.