In honor of International Yoga Day being earlier this week (on June 21, 2021), I thought it was appropriate for me to take a minute to share my five biggest takeaways from consistent yoga practice.
- You’re going to have “good days” and “bad days”. Some days I feel bendy, and other days I feel as stiff as a board. And that’s okay! Our body is always changing. I talk to many people who get frustrated because something that was easy yesterday is exceptionally challenging today. But maybe your body isn’t warmed up yet. Maybe you’re dehydrated. Maybe you didn’t sleep well last night. There are many things that influence our yoga practice from day to day. One common saying in yoga resources is to remember that you have never done this practice in this moment with this body before. Give yourself some compassion and do what feels good in the moment.
- You’ll notice where you carry your stress almost immediately. For me it’s consistently my shoulders and jaw. When I’m getting warmed up I feel the tension and stiffness in those areas, but as my practice progresses I start to feel the stress leaving my body. My recommendation is to spend a little bit of extra time feeling the release in areas of tension, even if it’s just an extra cycle of breath.
- Mindfulness is tough. Although this has improved drastically from when I first started doing yoga, at times I continue to find my mind wandering towards my to-do list for the rest of the day. And during these times of mental wandering, my form is less than ideal plus my breathing becomes more sporadic. Although it’s difficult to be present with your practice, it overall benefits your body physically and provides increased mental clarity that you can take into the rest of your day.
- Sometimes breathing is hard. I’ve written several past blog posts discussing the importance of the breath during yoga (in addition to various breathing techniques). But even though breathing is important doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do! When I’m attempting a new pose or when I’ve had a stressful day, I find myself holding my breath or breathing very shallow in my chest. The minute I become aware of this and move with the breath vs restrict it, my practice instantly becomes more fluid. I can feel my muscles expand more easily. I have a tendency to hold my breath when I get stressed in daily activities as well (e.g. working, serious conversations) which raises my stress levels even more! There’s a reason people tell you to take a deep breath if you’re stressed and/or upset. It helps calm down your nervous system!
- Regular practice is 100% worth it. Regular yoga practice is a commitment to yourself, your body, and your mental health. When you have a busy day it can be tough to make time for exercise and/or yoga. Or we may want to lay in bed a little bit longer vs spend time on our yoga mat! But making the commitment to do yoga on a regular basis is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My body feels more free with less restriction. My mind feels more clear. I feel more love and compassion for myself both while practicing yoga and while living my daily life.