Yoga has been instrumental on my journey to wellness over the past year. I have been fortunate to practice at an amazing studio, Atlas Yoga Studio in Cambridge, under the guidance of a wise gentleman named Terry. He has become a mentor to me and has really opened my mind to how Yoga can facilitate incredible personal changes. Terry is a retired robotics engineer and he brings a really interesting perspective to how Yoga affects body mechanics and neural networks.
Practicing Yoga has improved my wellbeing in so many ways that I feel it’s my duty to make a Public Service Announcement in the form of this blog post to extoll it virtues. I believe that Yoga is very beneficial to people of all ages and genders, however I really hope to encourage men in their midlife to find time to practice. From my experience, I know that many men forget about self care at this stage in life which could have very detrimental future consequences.
Initially, my motivation to begin practicing Yoga was to reduce stress and anxiety by incorporating mindful activities into my life. Yoga made the most sense to me because there was a physical aspect to it that I felt would increase my fitness level. Many months later I find that it has had a much greater impact than I expected.
The remainder of this article is a personal testimony of the specific benefits that Yoga has brought to my life.
Relieves Stress and Anxiety
- Breathing: Learning to breathe sounds so simple, but it was fascinating to learn how stress was causing me to have shallow breathing and therefore increasing my anxiety. Once I learned how to do Yoga breathing, Pranayama, I was able to incorporate it into my regular life as a weapon to fight bouts of anxiety.
- Meditation and Mindfulness: Clearing the mind of clutter can be challenging at first. There are so many things that are vying for my attention at any given moment that it becomes my normal experience of reality. First of all, practicing Yoga forces me to unplug from technology and that alone has a huge impact. Secondly, by starting and ending each session with Savasana, I have learned focus on my body in the present moment and purge thoughts that bring me beyond the walls of the studio.
- Better Sleep: I used to have trouble getting to sleep because of anxiety. Practicing Yoga regularly helps me to relieve stress and tension in the mind and body which in turn leads me to feel lighter and get to sleep more easily. The added benefit is that getting better sleep in itself caused me to experience less stress and anxiety.
Increases Physical Fitness
- Flexibility: Years of working at a desk or behind the steering wheel had taken their toll on my body. Practicing regular Yoga has opened up my body and efficiently strengthened it. Flexibility is achieved through a combination of strength and mobility that is intrinsic in Yoga.
- Build and Tone Muscle: Liftingweights is not the only way to build muscle. Yoga uses body weight and resistance to build and strengthen lean muscle. It also helps regulate blood flow which in turn helps to build muscle faster.
- Push Your Limits: What I really like about Yoga is that it challenges me to push past my physical limits without being overly aggressive. I have also learned that many of my boundaries have actually been created in my head. I have been amazed by the gradual progress I have made in achieving increasingly difficult Yoga poses.
- Lower Risk of Injury: Improved flexibility and muscle strength from any physical activity helps to prevent injuries. Yoga especially helps to build core strength which helps to relieve overused back muscles. However, since Yoga is not aggressive and because I have progressed according to my personal limits, I have lowered my chances of injuring myself. Also, practicing Yoga helps me to be better aware of my body and has allowed me to recognize subtle issues or pain and fix it quickly.
- Weight Loss: Yoga was more effective than I initially thought. As I discussed above, the practice of deep abdominal breathing is a major part of yoga. Yoga breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps to lower levels of cortisol which is a hormone that forces your body to hold on to belly fat.
Yoga has become very important in my life and I maintain the practise regularly even as I venture out into other sports and martial arts. It keeps me closely connected to my body and serves as a baseline so that I can understand how new activities are impacting my body.
Most importantly, the mindfulness that I attain in my practice goes a long way in reducing my anxiety. I truly believe that good health begins in the mind and that Yoga has been the most effective activity that I do because it addresses both my mental and physical fitness. Namaste!