I am a registered yoga teacher, and I have been practising yoga for about ten years. In this article, I explain why I love yoga.
There are so many reasons – physical, mental and spiritual – to fall in love with this ancient practice.
What is it about such an ancient practice that still appeals to so many people in our contemporary world?
From its origins in India thousands of years ago to modern yoga studios (and home practices) in 2021, yoga seems to increase in popularity while other practices come and go.
Why Do I Love Yoga?
I love yoga for so many reasons.
Yoga is so much more than just a workout. It's a lifestyle. And I don't mean that you have to attend the trendiest studio, vibe with your tribe, sport the latest fun toque and expensive yoga outfit. That's so not me!
Yoga can inform how you live, how you love, how you sleep, and how you eat. Ayurvedic principles, developed around the same time as yoga, and followed by many yogis, can improve our diet and digestion. In these ways, you can practise yoga off the mat, by living according to yogic principles.
The physical postures are known as asanas. But that's just one limb of yoga. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes The Eight Limbs of Yoga: Yamas (moral discipline), niyamas (observances), asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (enlightenment).
So yoga goes far beyond the physical practice. I love that yoga truly benefits both body and mind. After practising yoga, I always feel so much better physically and mentally. Let's break that down a little.
1. Better Breathing
Yoga improves breathing. Pranayama is the name given to breath work in yoga. When you regulate your breathing, it becomes easier to synchronize movement and breath, which is wonderful and calming. After all, yoga means union – of mind, body and spirit.
Breathing more deeply and evenly can help calm your mind, as well. It is a great way to reduce the effects of stress. Breathing techniques learned in yoga help me control anxiety in other situations.
2. Builds Strength
I love a good yoga flow to wake up and energize the body, build muscle, and burn off some pent-up energy. And it doesn't have to be a complex sequence. A few rounds of sun salutations can get your heart rate up and give you more energy and less stress.
Yoga builds strength and endurance. I love that you can see and feel yourself getting stronger with regular practice. Feeling stronger also leads to feeling more confident.
3. Yoga is for Every Body
Yoga is truly for every body, every shape, every size, every fitness level and every age. It is suitable for the elderly and the very young and everyone in between. You're never ‘not flexible enough' for yoga.
It's important not to be intimidated by more experienced yogis. Most yoga classes will offer modifications for all levels. Start where you are. The trick is to start!
4. Improves Posture
Yoga is beneficial for your posture, particularly if you spend lots of time sitting at a desk, as I do, hunched over a computer. Many people in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic find themselves leading a more sedentary lifestyle, so yoga is a great activity to combat that.
Yoga also improves your postural awareness while walking. Yoga strengthens your core, lengthens tight muscles and helps develop a healthy spine.
5. Releases Tension
Restorative yoga taught me how to release tension in some of the places I didn't even realize I was holding tension: the jaw, the eyes, the forehead. You can also use props, such as blocks, bolsters and blankets to support you in many of the poses. This way, you can enjoy a truly personalized and targeted practice.
Restorative yoga has also taught me to slow down, and I have learned tools for conscious relaxation. It can also help with insomnia. The physical and mental benefits go hand in hand.
6. Yoga as Meditation
For me, yoga has become a meditative practice, which is what yoga was intended to be, primarily. Yoga is sometimes called a moving meditation or a meditation in motion. When you can get in “the zone,” there is no practice like it. Yoga reminds me to practise patience and compassion for myself and others. It reduces my anxiety levels, which is one of the reasons I turned to yoga in the first place.
Landing on your yoga mat provides an opportunity to let go of any worries, any preoccupations, ruminating on things that happened or didn't happen, anything said or left unsaid, any planning, and so on to be fully present in the moment. Sometimes it helps to repeat silently, “I breathe in. I breathe out.” A mantra can help you remain in a meditative state, and anchored in your practice.
Balancing postures, such as tree or dancer, are great not only for the physical benefits but for nurturing focus and steadiness of mind.
7. Improves Mood
One big reason why I love yoga is its ability to stimulate the release of endorphins to improve my mood. Just ask my nearest and dearest! If I don't get to do yoga, I get cranky!
Yoga is the perfect activity to combat the winter blues, especially as the pandemic drags on and many of us face a lot of uncertainty. So, even if we are stuck at home, we can turn to yoga to boost our mood.
8. Yin and Yang – Noticing the Shifts
I love the moment when we transition from integration to a more energetic part of the practice as the sun salutations begin to create heat in the body. Conversely, I love the movement from the yang part of the practice in a flow class to the return to a supine position as your heart rate slows down, and you notice the effects of your practice.
Yoga helps me become more aware of the subtle changes in my body and the world around me. This is an excellent example of learning to practise yoga off the mat, as well.
9. Yoga and Spirituality
Yoga is also a spiritual practice for me. It helps me connect with my inner consciousness, even with a higher power. It reminds me not to lose perspective and helps me remember that we are all connected.
Though it needn't be a spiritual practice for everyone, I highly recommend finding the right class or instructor to deepen your yoga practice's spiritual side if that is something you are seeking.
And as if those reasons weren't enough to keep me hooked on yoga, I also love the sound of Sanskrit, which is still used in many contemporary yoga classes, along with the English translations. Adho mukha svanasana, for example, is more commonly known as downward-facing dog. And, of course, the closing Namaste, which roughly translates as ‘I bow to you.'
Hearing the Sanskrit language reminds me that yoga is an ancient practice. At times, I feel transported to ancient India or a spiritual sanctuary far away!
The Final Word on Why I Love Yoga
There are many more reasons to love yoga. You can find a community of like-minded souls. And when you're travelling, it's a portable practice. No fancy or expensive equipment is required. All you need is a yoga mat or even a mat-sized space. And then there's the final pose, savasana. Who doesn't love savasana?
I love yoga so much that I took a yoga teacher training and am now a registered yoga teacher. And I'm practising yoga every day. It is my one resolution for 2021. Why? Because I love it!