In my early twenties, I was terribly stressed out. As a full time student and a full time waitress who was committed to an active social life and volunteer work, I burned through my energy and my days faster than my body could handle. A colleague recommended that I try the free university yoga classes to help me reduce stress, and I did. What I experienced, however, was far more complex than a mere reduction in stress. I felt the expansion of time, I found a new understanding of my body, and I discovered a quiet space to self reflect on where my stress was coming from and how could I manage it. This was my first introduction to yoga. Ten years later, I teach yoga full time, lead yoga teacher training programs, mentor new yoga teachers and advise companies and resorts around the world on how to embed yoga and wellness into their business plans. While I still face stress, I now have the tools and the community to help me cope. Here are my primary ten reasons why I practice yoga, and why I think that you should too.
- Reduce Stress: This is very real. I see it in my students everyday, and in my own life. When things get stressful, breath, flow, and meditate, and the inevitable slowing down that happens strips that stress away. There are many studies that link meditation to literal changes in the brain that reduce fear, anxiety and stress.
- Digital Disconnect: An entire hour of being completely disconnected from my cell phone is a blessing that I will never take for granted. My posture, my eyes and my brain deserve a break from hyper-stimulation and experience the world differently after each yoga induced disconnect.
- Self-Reflection: Pema Chodron, the very first yogi I read about, explains that “practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.” This acceptance of self, without judgement, comes from moments of deep self reflection that are inspired on the mat, and eventually, off the mat as well.
- Strength: While ten years of yoga has yet to give me six pack abs, it has always sustained my healthy, toned and fit body. I feel strong and powerful, especially after heat-building flow, ashtanga and power yoga classes.
- Mobility: As a yin yoga teacher, I help people with immobility, chronic pain, arthritis and tension use yoga postures to achieve greater range of motion, mobility and hydration in their joints. Through targeting the fascia in our bodies, certain poses can really transform those tight and rigid parts of us into more limber and mobile joints.
- Community: Yoga has taught me how to openly, honestly, and even vulnerably, connect with family, friends and strangers alike. It has brought me a community of likeminded people who are inspiring and continually teaching me new lessons.
- Patience: My yoga practice has taken away my reactionary tendencies. Whether I get cut off in traffic, am surrounding by screaming children or stuck in a long lineup, the version of me that once got angry and frustrated now just breaths and repeats the mantra “this too shall pass”, and it does. It always does.
- Breath: We take over 17,000 breaths every single day. Yoga teaches us to notice each breath and embrace our breath as a coping mechanism for tension, stress, anxiety and emotional outbursts. From traumatic events to hard conversations to childbirth itself, the lessons I have learned about breath in yoga have unquestionably been the most powerful and transferable lessons to my everyday life.
- Overall Health: A wonderful review in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology concludes that yoga reduces the risk of heart disease just as conventional exercise does. If you are like me, and don’t enjoy going to the gym or running, yoga is the next best thing.
- Happiness: When I stumble and fall out of poses, it makes me laugh at myself. When I am basking in the bliss of savanasa, it makes me appreciate every person and experience in my life. When I am leading a class, I feel the joy created by community and commitment. Why do I practice yoga? Because. Yoga makes me happy.
If you are looking to explore the many benefits of yoga, and discover why the practice works for you, I would be happy to help you along on your journey. I host a series on online yoga programs that promote everything deep relaxation to muscular strength building and beyond.
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- Blog originally published at Caela Berry