Practicing Yoga has been part of my weekly routine for 5 years now. It was always the perfect complement to my usual high energy exercises, be it teaching conditioning classes, HIIT, strength based workouts or cycling. I always looked forward to the time on the mat to just focus on my breath, the asana practice and slowing my body and mind, just being in the present moment.
Fast forward to 2020 and a global pandemic! This really shifted my focus as to whether yoga was for my personal practice that I loved or if it was something that I would like to gain more knowledge and understanding about and teach. In a time of huge uncertainty combined with something completely new to me – time on my hands and being in one place (the one benefit of lockdown!) I decided to take the opportunity to study. I registered for Level 4 Yoga Teacher Training, which I have now completed and passed.
During my studying I learnt about the philosophy of yoga, breath practice – including many Pranayama techniques, meditation as well as the asanas (postures) before incorporating all of these components in to a class. The word yoga is derived from Sanskrit and means ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’. As per the yoga scriptures the practice of yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of Universal consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between mind and body.
There are so many benefits of yoga for mind, body and sense of well being. Yoga can help increase flexibility, improve posture, build strength, improve respiration, energy and vitality, improve mindfulness, reduce stress and lower blood pressure as well as improve self esteem.
Everyone may get something different from the time on the mat. My experience is that I find the time practicing yoga a place where I can slow my breath and mind to a place where I can focus on the present moment. Recognising how I feel at the start of the practice, connecting with my body and mind in a kind and compassionate way. However, I also enjoy the time challenging my body in the asanas, feeling my body and mind becoming stronger, the connection and importance of my breath throughout the practice. Finally meditation and relaxation, the most challenging part for me initially. A time to really connect with your body and mind. Keeping the focus on the present moment, be it in a guided meditation, a poem or a technique to draw attention to how your body feels, to help relax in to a meditative state. This time is so important. At a time which is so unsettling, I think I would be reacting differently to situations in the current climate had it not been for yoga. It continues to help me slow down, keep me grounded and focused on the present and feeling physically and mentally better than I have ever felt. That is a big statement from someone who has always used high energy exercise as my go to for stress relief and great energy! Adding it to my almost daily routine has provided the something that was missing and a much greater sense of balance.
The challenges of the last year have been different for everyone, Juggling working from home with homeschooling, the lack of social interactions, being able to plan to do things with our family and friends, enjoy holidays. The list goes on! A change to our previously normal routines and finding the time to look after ourselves may now be lower down the list due to other demands. Taking the time to practice yoga, or even just focusing on a breath practice, a meditation and relaxation or warming the body up and completing a few rounds of Suyra Namaskar – Sun Salutations, may be the perfect way to start your day. It can help with your lung capacity, mindset, reducing your stress levels, setting positive intentions, strengthening your body and finding a sense of calm. Never has it been so important to reap the rewards of this amazing practice.
You may already consider yourself a yogi or it could be on your to do list as a class you would like to try. I would encourage everyone to roll their mat out and just take some time to connect with yourself. The benefits could surprise you at a time where you think nothing else can!
Whilst I was studying I received a card from my lovely Mum! It is now in a frame as it is a really good reminder of part of the reason I love yoga so much. Here is a small snippet “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down. Yoga is like life – it’s a balance of holding on and letting go. Yoga does not change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees. Yoga is not for the flexible, its for the willing. Yoga takes you into the precise moment, the only place where life exists’. and lastly “Warning: yoga has been known to cause health and happiness” Now we all need that right now.