Lifestyle, Working out

Benefits of Yoga – Learning to Love Your Mind & Body

Have you ever wondered, what are the benefits of yoga? Is yoga good for you?

I’m definitely no expert, but I hope I can provide some insight from my ammateur experience. I started doing yoga consistently in the fall of 2020. Although I’ve taken a few classes in-person in the past, this was my first time sticking with it. Consistency allowed me to reap the benefits of doing yoga.

Yoga has improved my flexibility, strength, chronic back pain, patience, and wellness in general. Not to mention, I’m more in touch with my body. You might be wondering if yoga would have the same benefits for you? I believe if you stick with yoga consistently, you will reap similar benefits!

I want to go into detail on Big Sister Blog about how Yoga has improved these diverse areas of my life and why I would recommend it to others.

How I Got into Yoga

Years ago, when activities were still in-person, I attended a few yoga classes here and there. Yoga was something I desperately wanted to love, but, just couldn’t get into. I couldn’t focus on the moment I was in – I had no patience.

I was used to fast-paced environments. Growing up, my exercise was basketball, sports, running, cycling, and weightlifting – all fairly fast-paced activities. For me, yoga was a very different battle. Yoga is both physical and mental. It required me to build strength AND patience. I didn’t like this part at first. Little did I know this would become my favourite part about yoga!

Yoga helped me tune out the stresses in my life to focus on the moment in front of me. It helped me connect with my mind and body. If I had a busy week at school, I would find myself stressed and constantly thinking about studying. However, when I did yoga classes, I was completely relaxed. Yoga allowed me to experience momentary peace to enjoy.

I started doing classes on Youtube with different instructors. I would start my morning with beginner’s yoga, then slowly worked up to doing more challenging classes and poses. Most of the sessions I did were 20-40 minutes, but you can definitely do longer classes if you so wish. There are so many amazing instructors out there who offer free, virtual classes. Personally, I did most of my sessions on Youtube with Sarah Beth Yoga and Yoga with Adriene.

Benefits of Yoga – Improved Flexibility

Getting ready for yoga on the beach to start my day

My flexibility was the first thing that improved after doing yoga. When I started in the fall, I chose one of Sarah Beth’s classes on Youtube that looked interesting. Once we were 5 minutes into the class, I realized how tight my muscles really were. I was unable to bend over because of my back pain, and I couldn’t touch the floor because my hamstrings were inherently tight.

I figured, because I was relatively athletic, I should be able to start with a mid-level class. However after the first few minutes I realized the poses were not attainable for my skill level. I exited the video and went back to the beginner classes. I slowly worked on my flexibility through daily yoga classes. Even after the first week I could bend over more comfortably. My muscles felt more relaxed too.

I would get out of bed in the morning feeling very stiff. However, starting my morning off with yoga helped my body significantly. Yoga helped my muscles feel relaxed and loose before starting the day.

Gaining Strength

For me, one of the greatest benefits of yoga was becoming stronger.

As a kid, I honestly thought yoga was “easy”. If it wasn’t lifting a massive weight, then what could be so hard about it? But wow was I wrong! Although there are different levels, yoga definitely requires strength. One of the most important muscles is your core. A strong core keeps your body balanced. I was surprised how challenging yoga was at first. Many of the poses required me to engage and activate my glutes, arms, and core. Trying to hold the poses that the instructors were doing was pretty challenging at first.

This is why it’s important to start with beginner classes! I started from the beginning and got to feel myself progress. Eventually, I could hold certain poses longer. I even started doing new, more challenging poses as I improved. You will naturally and gradually become stronger if you practice yoga consistently.

Yoga for Chronic Back Pain

Yoga was a good stepping stone for me to get back into lifting weights and exercising with high intensity.

About 2 years ago, I rowed recreationally at a club in Orillia. After rowing 6 days a week, I ended up tearing (spraining) a ligament in my back. I would visit a local chiropractor bi-weekly to help relieve the pain. Unfortunately, this pain prevented me from working out with intensity. If I worked out my legs, my back would ache. If I exercised my core, my back would feel worse. I felt like there were no ways out. My body couldn’t handle this level of pain. I even had to quit rowing.

My chiropractor helped me understand that I needed to rebuild strength in the muscles surrounding the sprained ligament. Because of the sprain in my back, any surrounding muscle had to work extra hard to compensate for the injury. I ended up with extremely tight glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. During Yoga sessions, I got to stretch these muscles AND re-build the strength in my back and legs.

Yoga allowed me to start from the beginning. When I did yoga, I never put too much pressure on my back. As each day went by, I could feel myself getting better! Now I’m able to work out at the gym again, relatively pain-free.

Building Patience

As I mentioned earlier, I used to be very impatient with yoga. I couldn’t clear my head. During breathing exercises I would be focused on school work and assignments. I was missing the whole point.

Over time I began to understand the value of clearing my mind in yoga. When I do poses, the only thing I think about is my breathing and my body. Yoga became one of the best times of day for me. I would start my day stress-free after doing a virtual yoga class.

This level of patience even helped me in school. Sometimes it can be hard to sit through long classes. After doing yoga, I realized the importance of being in the moment. In yoga, I can’t enjoy the class unless my head is clear. In school, I can’t learn anything unless my mind is focused on the content of the lecture.

Peace of Mind & Wellness

This yoga pose is called the dancer’s pose

Yoga has all-around changed my lifestyle. Practicing yoga has connected my mind and body. I’ve learned to listen to my body.

Yoga has made me feel in touch with my body. During classes, I use my mind to strengthen my body. I’ve learned balance techniques just by focusing my thoughts and energy on certain areas of my body. When doing yoga, I can stimulate my brain while simultaneously calming it. Yoga has truly been therapeutic for me.

When I do yoga, my mind feels relaxed and stress-free. Without focusing on my worries and stresses, my mind can focus on my body and healing. This was proven to me after my back pain started to diminish and my muscles started loosening up! When I focused on wellness and peace of mind for just 30 minutes each morning, my body started to heal and feel healthier. Yoga truly embodies the connection between your mind and body.

Closing Thoughts on the Benefits of Yoga

I would truly recommend yoga to anyone. No matter how old you are, yoga can be a great activity to heal your body, become stronger, and promote general wellness in your life.

Even if we can’t have in-person classes because of COVID, there are lots of interactive and live virtual sessions you can do. Grab a friend and head to a zoom yoga class together. If that’s not your style, feel free to do classes on your own following a professional on Youtube – that’s what I did!

Thanks for reading! I hope if you aren’t already doing yoga, you at least give it a try after reading this post! You will learn to love it! You will learn to connect with your mind and body. I hope you reap the same benefits that I did… and more!

Karley

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