There are a cacophony of reasons why people find Yoga. Many initially come to Yoga for the relaxed buzz they feel after class. The quick fix to reboot from a draining day, stressed body, worn-out mind. But over time, the reasons they often continue their regular practice is due to the positive change in how they inter-relate with themselves and their world. These long-term changes to their ‘default settings’ are significant, for this reason I’ll call them the Game Changers. There are truly too many to list in this post, but I’ll unpack a few of the more common ones.
Students regularly tell me that their posture has improved since beginning Yoga. That’s partly due to the poses that we do to create more balance in our bodies by opening the front of the torso, strengthening the back, and realigning the neck. But also because people who do Yoga regularly are more mindful of what’s going on in their bodies, and will more quickly notice and correct bad body mechanics before it starts causing pain. And bad body mechanics is at the root of much of our pain!
I love hearing students tell me that they regularly use breathing techniques to release tension – whether it’s a few mindful breaths while in rush-hour traffic or during a difficult verbal interaction. Releasing stress before it creates a health crisis is incredibly powerful. Stress causes all sorts of health issues from migraines to digestive issues. How would your life be impacted if you were more proactive in managing your stress?
The positive impacts of mindfulness cannot be fully appreciated as they are vast. Anything and everything done mindfully will change the way you see and interact with your body, mind and the world. Living mindfully allows us to better see things as they are, in the moment, which allows us to make the best decision in that moment. We miss so much of what’s in front of us when we are caught up in our thoughts. Mindfulness is the game changer that allows us to be more available in the here and now, which is truly all we have.
One of my favorite tributes to the benefits of Yoga for better sleep came from a student who told me that after using Yogic breathwork to fall asleep, she slept the best she had in 10 years, without medication. “I felt like I had become one with the mattress,” she said. That works for me!
Distracted vs. Calm Mind
When people first come to Yoga, they become aware of how distracted their minds are. Meditation brings this realization to the forefront. Our minds are incredibly powerful and can be used for all sorts of creative and useful endeavors. However, it is the restless, ruminating, distracted mind that is terribly fatiguing. Meditation teaches us that we can change that default by bringing our awareness to the breath when we aren’t using our minds in a purposeful manner, thereby calming the mind and conserving energy. This is a practice, like all others, that is ongoing. No one ever masters meditation, which is why it is called a practice. This fact can be at first disappointing for the new student, but the good news is that we can still reap the benefits of meditation, just from practicing.
It is our nature to contract our bodies when we’re focused. You probably already know where you tend to carry tension – typical places are shoulders, neck, face, back, glutes. Let’s test that out now, since you’re likely (hopefully) focused on reading this. Scan your body and see… are you’re tensing anywhere? (Yes!) As we become more adept Yogis, we become more aware of these patterns and release them as soon as we notice our shoulders lifting, our glutes tightening, or our jaws clenching. Tension is not relegated to the awake state. If your body is tense during the day, you will likely tense it while asleep. This ongoing tension is draining and over time causes physical pain and uneven wear and tear on our joints.
Thankfully, Yoga teaches us to change this default and be more relaxed while being engaged/focused. With all this good news, you can see how Yoga, the miracle drug, will change your game. I hope to see you on the mat soon!