Have you been considering trying yoga? Or maybe you went to a class and never went back? That's how it started for me, and I'm so glad I didn't "toss in the towel", because I would have missed out. Silence your doubts and release any fears you may have about not being flexible enough, not knowing enough - everyone that has tried yoga has been exactly in that same spot. Say YES - it may possibly change your whole life!
Previously I've been a "dabbler", for 15 or so years of my life I tried many different kinds of yoga, hatha, ashtanga, bikram, prana etc. I never really became committed or dedicated in my personal practise. I'd sign up for sessions, complete them and move on to something else. Eventually I'd find my way back to yoga, sometimes months, or even years would pass but I'd always be called back to it. The truth was, I didn't really like it.(I'll bet you weren't expecting that!) If I would describe how I felt in those days I would say I felt slightly demoralized, I didn't feel good enough, strong enough or flexible enough. I now know this had nothing to do with yoga, and more to do with me pursuing things that bolstered my ego, things that I thought I was good at and things that came easily to me. But something kept bringing me back. Over and over again, despite my supposed dislike and avoidance, back I would go...each time trying a different type of yoga.
About 2 years ago, I started to become more committed, I joined a new gym that offered yoga classes included in their membership and started making an effort to attend classes more regularly. Yoga started to become a necessity for me, I was training for a fitness competition and my body was so tight and stiff that yoga was one of the few things that helped restore fluidity and movement in my body. I still didn't really like the physical practise, because it made me uncomfortable in my body, but what kept me going back was the much needed stretching and "that feeling" I had after the class, which subsequently would make a difference in how my entire day played out.
Yoga has changed my life, and being able to teach yoga is the thing that makes me excited to get out of bed in the morning! The benefits I have personally experienced are many, all a result of a regular committed practice. I finally love my body (and I don't have to spend nearly as much time at the gym as I once did), I am more balanced and adept to what life has to throw my way and I have strength and stamina that I have not experienced before. The progression I have experienced in my own body and mind has come more quickly than any other physical activity that I have ever done. I bear witness to this same progression, every week in the people who I have been teaching. I am so totally blessed and honored to be able to share this with my friends, loved ones and the people who faithfully attend my classes.
Anyone who knows anyone that has adopted a regular yoga practice has probably heard the same sort of accolades, but the benefits go far beyond strength, flexibility and relaxation. The benefits are endless! Here's a partial listing of some of my favorites, many of them being backed by western science.
Joints: The cartilage in our joints absorb shock, cushion and protect the bones from rubbing together. Your cartilage which requires nutrients to remain healthy and regenerate itself and functions much like a sponge. Nutrients are delivered to the cartilage as fluid is squeezed out and fresh nutrients are absorbed as a result of the full range of motion your joints go through during the yoga.
Bottom line: Prevention of degenerative arthritis
Lymph: The lymphatic system cleanses nearly every cell in your body, it fights infection by generating and storing white blood cells, and disposes of the waste products generated by other systems of the body. Lymph fluid is slow moving; muscle contraction and deep breathing are the primary means by which our lymphatic fluid circulates, as the lymphatic system does not have a pump.
Bottom line: Yoga really delivers here, flowing through postures and incorporating pranayama(breath) will really get your lymph moving!
Blood Sugar: Yoga aides in stress reduction, resulting in lower stress hormone levels and research suggests this moderates the impact of diabetes. Certain yoga poses stimulate and massage our internal organs, aiding in effective pancreas and liver function. During yoga postures blood sugar is reduced by the muscles absorbing excess glucose in the blood. Weight loss and improved sensitivity to the effects of insulin have also been documented in diabetics.
Bottom line: Yoga can decrease the risk of complications that diabetics commonly suffer from.
Blood Pressure: Studies conducted in Sweden and India show that blood pressure can be lowered naturally by reducing stress. A number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being. Bottom Line: Yoga is effective for stress management which can aid in lowering blood pressure.
Stress Less: A study conducted by Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and the Yoga Research Society measured the cortisol levels of participants both before and after a yoga class, they discovered a significant decrease after the class. Science has proven that high stress levels, effect our physiology negatively. By learning how to bring awareness to the breath, to slow down, to focus on the present moment and practise stillness we start to create a shift, bringing about inner balance, poise and a sense of well-being which plays a vital role in our overall health.
Bottom line: Yoga can be very helpful in reducing stress.
I'm trying to thing of a way I can relay the other benefits that I, as well as many of the people I know that regularly practice yoga have experienced. What I'm speaking of are the non-physical benefits, difficult to "prove" in double-blind, scientific trials these are experiential and different for everyone. Speaking for myself I feel I am much more connected to the world around me, myself and my inner being. Self love and a greater desire to honour and nurture my body, mind and spirit. A greater faith and trust in the divine workings of God, Source or the Universe (call it what you will).
If you are thinking about trying yoga for the first time, I would really encourage you to commit to sticking with it, don't cheat yourself by giving up after the first few classes. Sometimes it's just a matter of finding a style of yoga and a teacher that resonates with you - there really is a style and a teacher out there for everyone! The best news is most studios offer a newcomer special at huge savings.
If you hear the whispers, leading you...listen there is something there for you!