It might not come as a surprise to you that, as a Yoga teacher, I am a bit of a fan of Yoga.
I first tried Yoga when I was about 20, inspired by my hero worship of George Harrison. I attended the occasional class, and had a video I used to follow at home. It really became a part of my life in 2007 when I attended June Marshman’s class in the Rhondda Sport Centre. After only a few classes I promised myself I would teach it one day. Sure enough, 7 years later, I fulfilled that promise to myself.
Yoga has given me so many gifts over the years. Many of the reasons I loved it at first seem inconsequential now. I used to love the fact that I was *good* at it. I could perform the postures well, and was often praised for my ‘beautiful pose’. My teacher training, and healing through Yoga has given me other, far more important benefits. Being ‘good’ as the postures no longer matters.
Yoga helps relieve insomnia
After suffering from insomnia since childhood, I relied on ‘self medication’ to deal with insomnia. I learned in my 20s that if I drank enough alcohol, I could ‘sleep’ far easier. There were many other reasons I drank to excess, but insomnia was definitely one of them. Through the improved relaxation Yoga, and particularly learning to breathe, gave me, I can now sleep well naturally. I used to fear bedtime and resist going to bed for as long as possible. Now my bed is one of my favourite places to be! Many people tell me that after they come to my class, they have their best night’s sleep.
Yoga reduces stress
Yoga is renowned for being a powerful stress reliever. I have learned this so powerfully in the time since I began Yoga teacher training and learned to breathe properly. Yoga offers a wealth of tools to combat stress. It helps you reduce stress, manage stressful moments, recover quicker from stress, and heal the physical and emotional impact of stress. Yoga practices can help to train your body and mind to relax, to recognise the signs of stress, and to find alternative ways to experience and deal with a stressful situation.
Yoga promotes mindfulness
Mindfulness is a popular practice nowadays. People often ask me if I teach mindfulness as if it were a separate thing from Yoga. I do not. Yoga is all about developing awareness of your thoughts, emotions, actions and body. Yoga promotes this awareness in every aspect of the practice. When you sit with your breath, when you hold your body in a posture, when you learn to relax, you become aware, present and mindful. Yoga philosophy takes this even further, inviting you to develop an awareness of your thoughts, actions and how you live in relation to others. If you practice and study Yoga, you do not need a separate mindfulness practice, yoga is mindfulness in action.
Yoga promotes acceptance
By bringing you into the present moment, you can become more connected to the impermanence and fluidity of life. Holding a posture that is uncomfortable becomes more bearable because you know it won’t last, and there will be relief and relaxation at the end. The enjoyment of the relaxation is not spoiled by knowing you are going to be in another posture soon. All the moments of a class pass, both the comfortable and the uncomfortable. When you apply this knowing to your daily life, it becomes easier to accept life as it is, instead of trying to force it to be what you want it to be.
Yoga offers a new perspective
When you put your body in unfamiliar and uncomfortable postures, you start to notice things about the body you live in that you didn’t before. You may notice the imbalance between your left and right side. Maybe you will notice tension pain that you had got so used you stopped noticing a long time ago. You may discover muscles and areas of your body you have never given a second thought to.
As well as noticing your body, you may start to notice your thoughts. You may discover aspects of your life that no longer feel like they are working for you. Maybe you will discover new ways of being that feel more ‘you’. This is what Yoga is for. To help you discover the real you beneath all the layers you don’t notice, and help you to become more you.
Yoga helps boost self acceptance
From that sense of acceptance and new perspective, your relationship with yourself might change. Yoga is very much about being where you are, not worrying about where or who you think you should be. So if you can’t perform the postures, can’t sit on your heels, and feel like your brain goes into overdrive when I invite you to focus on your breath, that is ok. That is where you are right now. There is no pressure for you to be any different. You are perfect right now, as you are.
Yoga does not demand that you be super flexible, stong or an oasis of zen like calm. I am definitely not the latter! All Yoga asks if that you show up, and do and be the best you can right now. Yoga promises that if you practice, your body and mind will change over time, and you will reap the benefits.
Yoga boosts mental health
Many studies have shown that Yoga is a powerful tool in your mental health tool box. I can certainly vouch for that. Although I still do struggle with my own mental health, I know that Yoga has almost certainly saved my life. I beat alcoholism, marijuana and cigarette addiction. I have learned to balance extreme mood swings, soothe anxiety and find relief from long lived with depression. All through Yoga. I know that my yoga practice is going to be my most used tool to help with my recently discovered ADHD. Despite some challenging times recently, I have got through them thanks to my Yoga practice.
Just one class can change your mood. I have turned up to teach classes feeling like I didn’t want to be there, and felt so much better by the end I can’t even remember why I felt so grouchy before I left the house. Yoga has been shown to increase levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes good feelings, and reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.
Yoga boosts physical health
Many people know that Yoga is a useful aid to greater flexibility, strength and stamina. But it goes far beyond that. There are so many ways that Yoga supports good health, I could write a book on it. Even if all you do is learn to breathe better, your physical health would improve as you would be better nourishing your cells. Yoga can provide relief from tension and stress, improve posture, provide relief from conditions such as asthma, IBS, high blood pressure and much more. I have an old shoulder injury I got when I gave birth to my youngest son that used to flare up when I got stressed. Since practising the Yoga I do now, I have barely had any issues with it. The only time I do is when I let my practice slide. Any issues soon disappear when I begin to take care of myself again.
This is a short list of the reasons that I love Yoga so much. I have benefited from all these and then some!
How could your life be better through Yoga?
Come along to a Rhondda Yoga class, or book a one to one session to find out!