When I began to think about my celebration of the International Day of Yoga my first thought was to connect to what yoga means to me. If you’ve heard my story you know that I’ve been practicing for almost 20 years. At first yoga was exercise for me, I often found myself feeling limited in my ability and even envious of others in the class. As I continued my practice I began to notice something changing, I was slowing down and there was less focus on what I couldn’t do and more focus on what I could do. Showly over the years I began to connect more and more to the inner me. And that was the moment that changed everything!
When people ask me about why I love yoga the answer is really simply. Yoga is how I connect to me!
Breaking the biggest yoga myths
So often I hear people say… I can’t do yoga I’m not flexible. As a yoga therapist I hear this so often and I’m here to say “I get it”. We have all seen those photos of yogis on magazine covers and instagram. You know the ones I’m talking about. There is usually a beach on a beautifully sunset and a strong healthy body in a handstand, dancer or wheel pose. It’s no wonder we get the impression that yoga requires flexibility. What we can’t see in the picture is how long the person in the photo has worked to get into that pose. So I want to help provide a new perspective on some of the most heard yoga myths.
1. There is no such thing as a Yoga Body
I’m here to tell you that your age, body type, energy levels and flexibility do not affect your ability to do yoga. Yoga isn’t about making your body fit a posture or a movement. In fact it’s exactly the opposite. It’s fitting the posture for your body. Every single pose can be broken down, taken to the floor and/or supported to give your body, mind and spirit the benefits of the pose. And here is the secret! The best part of yoga is actually when we struggle with a pose, this is where the gifts are!
Check out this incredible video of Yoga Teacher Diane Bondy
2. The gift of yoga is found in all stages of a pose
So often you will hear… “to experience the full expression of the pose…” and I”m here to tell you that every single movement you do going in and out of any pose is where the gifts are. When we listen in to our body we will find everything we need to help it. It is a self learning experience that just keeps on giving. We then holds space to allow our body and mind to face the challenges of a pose, to learn, to accept and to grow. It allows us to recognize the challenges we face every day, the change in our strength, our energy and our confidence. And most of all to love ourselves on all of those days. Allowing ourselves to be supported energetically with self compassion and care as well as physically with props.
3. Yoga lowers stress and invites rest
When we remove expectations of doing a handstand in our first class we can lean into the benefits of yoga. And one of the most impactful for my clients has been the effects on stress. Stress is a silent killer in our society, no matter what your lifestyle looks like we all face it. One of the many benefits of yoga is the effect on cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that triggers our fight or flight system. The problems associated with elevated cortisol levels include:
- Digestion issues.
- Suppressed immunity.
- High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
- Insulin resistance.
- Sleep disorders.
- Carbohydrate cravings.
- Metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
- Fat deposits on the face, neck, and belly.
- Reduced libido.
- Anxiety and Depression.
- Weight gain.
- Cardiovascular stress.
The myofascial release achieved through yoga invites release of pain, tension and stress in the body and mind. This added with the resting and recovery poses in a yoga flow brings the body exactly what it needs to restore, prevent injury and burnout.
4. Yoga breath connects you to what matters
If you have ever tried one of the many yoga breaths you may find it’s complicated. But what I learned is that it is really exactly the opposite. In almost every class I’ve been in the first thing the teacher does is ask you to connect with your breath. At first I thought this was just so that you learned to move with your breath. But what I came to realise is that it’s SO much more than that. Yes in yoga we move with our breath, but what I hadn’t connected with is why.
Have you ever witnessed a child crying? The first thing we often notice is how fast they are breathing, often they are breathing so quickly it is hard to catch their breath. Through all our experiences and emotions in life our breath has been the first indicator. Our breath is part of our lifeforce, it brings in the oxygen our body needs and expels what we don’t. It also helps us “breath” through the hard moments, celebrate the good ones and experience all the moments in between.
Another incredible part about our breath is that it can only happen now. You can’t breath into yesterday, or breath for tomorrow. Connecting with our breath is a simple and accessible way to invite mindfulness and begin the process of listening in. It doesn’t require any change to your breathing, and expectation of being a certain way, just listening. What happens after that is simply magic. For it’s when we listen in that we find clarity, strength and ourselves.
To read more about the benefits click here
What is the International Day of Yoga?
The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga, a physical, mental and spiritual practice. The word yoga originates from Yuja, a Sanskrit word which means, “to join or to unite”, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness. The theme for Yoga Day 2018 is “Yoga for Peace.”