Friday, April 21, 2017

5 reasons why... 

I like yoga

Yoga, it’s pretty trendy these days isn’t it? Sometimes it’s hard to move for horribly immaculate photographs of beautiful people doing perfect yoga poses on impossibly sandy beaches. This trend makes me feel a little sad sometimes, because to me this actually reduces people’s understanding of yoga. In fact it misses the point.

For me yoga is a safe haven from scrolling down your Instagram feed one too many times, knowing that -yeah you’re pretty bored of staring at your best friend’s cousin’s puppy eating a purple ice cream made from lavender flowers- but somehow you can’t stop. 

I’m not here to convert anyone to yoga, because I know for many it’s just a load of new-age hippy bullshit. If you feel this way I won’t try to change your mind. I will simply share my feelings with you.  

Here are five reasons why I like yoga. 

1.  Connecting with my body

I’ve spent a fair chunk of life sitting behind a desk –studying, working or typing on a laptop. Coupled with that when growing up I was never a “sporty” person. I never felt like I had strong physical skills or competitive abilities. 

By doing yoga, by stretching, moving and listening to my body I actually began to feel better about all parts of myself (not only my mind or my emotions). I realised how easy it is to become disconnected from my body.  Not disconnected like my body is a separate entity! Disconnected like I’m not using it, not feeling it, not knowing what it needs. Doing yoga has helped me to feel a part of my body, to get to know it better. 

2. Calming my mind

The practice of yoga is designed to encourage inner peace through breathing, stretching and relaxation.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we live in a pretty hectic world. We need to do lots of things, do them quickly and make them happen NOW.  We are expected to be constantly social, always responding to friends, family and colleagues. We’re not really “switching off”, checking our phones whenever and wherever (thanks Shakira). On top of that we try to keep in touch with the news, where we hear about the wars and crises that many countries now find themselves in. I certainly feel affected by these things and have experienced feelings of worry, anxiety and a struggle to live in the present moment.

Because it is relaxing, because a sense of peace is one of its main aims, when I go to a yoga class I feel like I’m entering a tranquil space. It’s a place where I’m allowed to focus solely on the moment in front of me. I slow down, clear my mind and begin to feel calmer.

3. Freedom from my ego

Sometimes I find myself comparing myself to others around me thinking they’re cleverer, more skilled, more accomplished than me. Sometimes I judge myself, telling myself that I should be doing this better, that I shouldn’t have done it that way, that I should have achieved more success. Sometimes I think I’m very important, that my needs are the priority above everyone else’s. Yeah I’m the centre of the universe don’t you know? 

The philosophy behind yoga (which is based on the “8 limbs ” or guidelines for life) encourages you to be aware of your ego and to try to manage it. It is an individual practice where you follow your own path of development, not in competition or comparison with anyone else.

Of course, going to a yoga class is usually motivated by ego. We want to develop ourselves, to seek improvement. However what I’ve found is that repeating practices in an environment where there is no high expectations and no emphasis on success or higher goals has helped me to feel free. 

When I’m there I start to see how my self-esteem and self-importance dictate my thoughts and dictate my actions. This actually gives me a sense of freedom because I start to realise that there is more out there than my stupid thoughts about whether I’m really good at this or that. This lets me be kinder to myself and by extension kinder to others around me.

4. Giving me “tools for life”

It sounds cheesy but yoga has genuinely given me practical tools for life. I’ve learnt breathing and meditation techniques, postures and exercises that I can use anytime, anywhere to unwind. If I’m feeling anxious, low or muddled I can take 10 minutes out to do one of these things. Afterwards I feel more peaceful and more in touch with myself (I’m not talking about touching myself by the way, just about a little meditation!). 

This doesn’t make my problems go away. It does however give me the ability to understand them, and to tackle them more easily. Indeed many studies have shown that practicing yoga or meditation everyday can help people to feel content in their life.

5. Having fun, meeting new people

With a lot of interests they grow when you share them with other people. With yoga this is certainly the case. Sharing my love for yoga with friends has increased our bond. We can discover good practices together, discuss our experiences and feelings we’ve felt. It’s also been a good way to meet new, like-minded people.  Not only that but doing yoga with others fun. It teaches me ways to express myself and to be playful.

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