Maybe I’m being a little over dramatic, but I can honestly say that practicing yoga at least 3 times a week has changed my life. I’m not a ‘yogi’, but I do appreciate the practice much more than I used to.
This semester I am taking yoga as a class (yes, for credit) and it has really opened my eyes. I’ve taken plenty of yoga classes since I started college, but the hour session doesn’t really dive into the details about the benefits of each pose. Although you leave class feeling refreshed, you don’t necessarily know how every pose affects your body. Thankfully, my three hour class on Thursday nights does, and it has taught me many things about my physical and mental well-being.
The purpose of yoga is to better your health and wellness by increasing flexibility, building muscle and helping unclutter the mind to focus. Thanks to my professor, I’ve realized that on top of those things, I have learned some things I need to change about my lifestyle.
I am the type of person that worries about everything, especially what people think. I am constantly fretting about how busy I am, or how much I have to do instead of just sitting down and doing it. After listening to my teacher talk about how much stress can affect your body in the long run, I’ve learned to let the little things go. I’ve started to care less about what others thought and shifted to more about what makes me happy, which leads me to:
Set aside time for yourself
When the weight of the world becomes overwhelming, I’ve learned to step back and reevaluate things. Meditation has really helped me recognize that I need to do this more. For instance, last week I had so much on my mind with a huge amount of school work and I really didn’t want to be in the library. So, I took a solo trip to the beach and studied there. At first, I wanted company but when nobody could come, I took that as a good sign. There was something exhilarating about just wanting to go somewhere by myself and going for it. Once I got to the beach, I met the coolest people, and drove with the windows down listening to the best music. That was one of my favorite days.
Don’t push yourself too hard
As an athlete, I was always taught that if it isn’t broken, keep playing. That was my mentality in every sport and I must say, it did a number on my knees and ankles. In yoga, it’s all about practicing the pose that is the most comfortable for you. There are higher levels of difficulty for those with more experience, but you’re supposed to always stick to what feels the best for your body. When it comes to my lifestyle, I also pushed myself pretty hard. I’m learning that at this point in my college career, I’ll do work to my best ability, but I don’t need to spend hours on formatting or adding extra fluff. Sometimes, the simplest pose (/work) gives you the best results.
Pay attention to your feet more
I never realized how much work my feet do every day. Not only do they get me from one place to another, but my entire body weight is being held up by these two gems all the time. Oh, and not to mention the extra 40+ lbs. we put on them carrying things, lifting weights, running, etc. One yoga class, all we focused on was our feet. Now, every morning I rub my feet to wake them up before getting out of bed. It may sound corny, but it’s really important. Relating this to my lifestyle, I need to pay more attention to the support systems that I have. My family, my best friends and my overall physical health (aka pratice yoga more).
I am the worst at wanting the newest gadget/trend/accessory all the time. When I was on a pretty bad luck streak these past couple of months, breaking two iPhones getting into a small car accident and loosing all my valuables, I realize how much emphasis I put on these things. Granted, I am very thankful for what I’ve been given, but I need to start appreciating them more, instead of just throwing things around (literally). I’m learning that people are so much more important than things, and I should only invest time into those that are truly affecting my life. On the flip side, if there are people in your life that aren’t helping you reach your full potential, maybe it’s time to go in a different direction.
Of course, these are all the mental takeaways I’ve learned from yoga so far, but I have also seen physical changes. My arms, legs and core are much stronger, and I’m ALMOST as flexible as I was when I was in gymnastics. OK, I lied, about 40% of the way there, but the semester isn’t over yet. If you haven't gone to a yoga class, I encourage you try it out!