Everyone needs balance in their life, whether it is through diet and exercise, balancing work with play or finding that one thing that reaches all facets of their life. For me, my balance in my life is yoga. It is cornerstone of my daily being, even if I do not practice it every day, it is always there for me, whether it is my actual practice on the mat or the influence it has with me off the mat. It’s amazing how much it impacts my life, in fact, as I ponder how to describe my strong belief in the many health benefits that yoga has provided me in this very article, I am unsure as to where to begin. So, what do I do? I begin with yoga. I pull out my mat, turn on my yoga application and I follow along. It takes up half an hour of my time, but to me this is time well spent. It is time that I give, in order to get time back. By allowing myself time to do something for me, both physically and mentally, I take away any anxiety I might have about completing a project, or mulling over an indecision I might have about something. By taking the time to take care of me, I am allowing myself to put forth a sense of calmness into the rest of my day and after I have completed my practice I feel more prepared to begin.
Many doctors and health practitioners will tell you how exercise is important to your overall health, but finding the right exercise is key to maintaining it on a regular basis. For me, this is what yoga is. Five years ago, I started my journey of practicing yoga. I had a one-year old at home and wanted to introduce exercise back into my life, as well as reintroduce time spent that took care of me. Back then I practiced once a week and also included other exercise, such as cardio and strength-training in my visits to the gym. Another year later I became pregnant again, as a result, it became more difficult for me to maintain the energy to continue exercising, take care of my child, and work at my job. In this situation, the first thing to go was exercise, as we so often see it becomes the easiest thing to drop, knowing full well that one cannot drop providing and caring for one’s family or their career. What I discovered, was that yoga was the one exercise each week that I was most reluctant to not have in my life. I continued to practice as long as I could, but eventually stopped when my pregnant belly and exhaustion took over. After giving birth to my second child I was eager to start up my exercise routine once again, and the first to be included back into this routine was yoga.
Since my second child was born and other exercises once again have fluctuated in and out of my life, yoga has not only remained constant, but has increased in importance and frequency. As a result of practicing more yoga, I have not only seen a change in my physical strength, but in the way that I treat my body and in the way that I treat those I encounter throughout my day.
Yoga has shown me to how accept and love my body, especially after the way motherhood and pregnancy have changed me and how I see myself. It has reminded me to treat my body with more kindness and better nutrition because I know that without these I cannot accomplish all I need to throughout the day. It has helped my mental health and as a result increased my sense of calmness with everyday actions, and has given me a peace that is often challenging to find when dealing with different opinions and stress that life can sometimes have. It is one of the few forms of exercise that I find influences other aspects of my daily existence. Yoga requires composure and confidence when preforming a pose, or asana, as it called, this composure and confidence can be directly applied to everyday tasks and stressful situations in my life off the mat.
Outside of learning correct poses to hold, learning how to properly breath during the practice is just is as important and is also greatly applied to my wellness off the mat. When my mind is racing with thoughts from the day and I can’t seem to fall asleep at night, I turn to my breathing and focus my thoughts on my belly rising and falling and find that the complicated thoughts I was having drift away as my attention is refocused. When I find that I am losing patience with my little ones because they are taking a long time to get dressed for leaving the house, I remind myself to breath and my patience is increased. When I am disorganized and frustrated over trying to complete a task at hand, I know that sometimes the answers don’t always come right away, but I take a step back and know that through focusing on something else for a time, such as breathing, I can come back refreshed and ready to focus on the task at hand.
Not only does practicing yoga allow so many physical benefits, increased strength, flexibility, mental focus, but it also makes me more aware of how I treat my body. By noticing how small changes in pose alignments within my yoga practice can change how I feel during my practice, I have also discovered acutely how food makes my body feel and have changed a lot of what I consume to nourish myself better. It is widely confirmed not to practice yoga on a full stomach since it involves a lot of stretching and twisting of the body; but the body is also affected by the types of food one eats. One cannot practice yoga on a heavy stomach of burgers and fries, but requires foods that provide energy and lightly satisfies one’s appetite. By introducing better nourishing foods into my diet, such as more vegetables and grains, I find that my energy is increased, my practice has improved and my body is much happier overall.
One of the other benefits of yoga is that it is flexible within your needs, there are many types and modifications to suit all levels of practice. If you are struggling to calm yourself at the end of the day, there is a yoga for that. If you are just starting out or coming back from taking a break you can modify your practice to fit your current ability. If you are short on time and can’t get to the gym, all you need is to find ten minutes for your body to profit from it. If you are outside your home, perhaps away on business or away on vacation, but you feel the mat calling your name, that is all you need, yourself and a small corner in a room to work on your practice. It is there for you as much as you need it, and will always wait patiently for you to come back to it when you are ready.
It is without a doubt that I believe yoga has impacted my life in so many more ways than I initially had ever expected. I had only wanted to do something for myself, to increase the exercise I was doing in an enjoyable way, one that would keep me committed to a healthy lifestyle and what I got was so much more. Because of yoga, I am healthier, stronger, more confident and more at peace than I have ever been in my life. Not only do I benefit from my practice, but so do those around me, it has made me a better mother, wife, and human being and I plan to continue my practice for as long as my body continues to breathe.