I started practicing yoga because I wanted to be healthy and look good. I have known advanced students of yoga who keep sharing their positive experiences and that was enough inspiration for me to enroll in a yoga retreat.
A number of studies have proven that yoga calms the anxious mind, uplifts the mood, improves fitness levels, and helps in managing chronic conditions like heart diseases, blood pressure, and psychological ailments.
However, in the past two months that I’ve practiced it, yoga has brought even more benefits than I had expected – it made my body more flexible, lifted me out of depression, and helped me control my emotions.
Here are six lessons I’ve learned from my 20-minute yoga session:
Focus on the Present
I have been a worrier all my life. Before graduating, I stressed about my future. I successfully completed my post graduation, yet felt anxious about finding the right job. Now, when I am doing pretty well at work, I find myself worrying about my health, family, and career.
I guess this is true for everyone. Fortunately, this stress has simmered down with yoga and I have been able to gain control of my life.
Yoga taught me to focus on the present. Sitting in Cobbler’s pose (Baddha Koṇāsana) and practicing deep breathing, made me realize that it is best to embrace the present and live in it. Fretting over the past or the future hampers your ability to enjoy the present.
Yoga Can Influence Weight Loss
Practicing yoga regularly can reduce your weight, but not in the way traditional exercise sessions do. Weight loss not only occurs thanks to some asanas, but you’re also more aware of your diet.
When I started practicing yoga, I became more mindful of my diet and avoided heavily processed and junk food that made me feel lethargic. It’s true that yoga burns fewer calories in comparison to other physical exercises such as jogging and cardio workouts. Yet, postures like the Wheel pose (Chakrasana), Crane Pose (Bakasana), and the Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana) helped me lose a considerable number of calories.
Moreover, yoga encouraged me to choose a healthy lifestyle. I was able to lose around 20 pounds in two months merely by practicing yoga and altering my lifestyle.
Researchers have also established a direct relationship between chronic stress and binge eating. Yoga helps reduce stress and calms your mind and body, keeping unhealthy eating habits at bay.
Breathing Is Crucial in Yoga
During my yoga lessons, I learned that it is crucial to be aware of the breathing pattern when performing the poses as doing so keeps the mind alert and supplies enough oxygen to the muscles, enabling them to support the body weight. Apart from stretching exercises, you normally complement yoga with Pranayama and meditation; both stress the importance of breathing.
Employing the right breathing technique is crucial in yoga as it can help reduce your emotional stress and anxiety. Scientifically, breathing is an involuntary action controlled by the medulla oblongata. However, when you are aware of your breathing, the cerebral cortex (conscious part of the brain) takes over.
When you consciously focus on breathing, random and anxious thoughts stop coming to you, your brain gets a break, making you feel relaxed.
You Don’t Need to Be Lean and Flexible to Perform Yoga
Before I started practicing yoga, I was concerned about my flexibility and was unsure of being able to perform the postures. Nonetheless, I realized that you don’t have to be super bendy right away; the primary goal of yoga is to feel the stretch, as you continue to take deep breaths, leading to a balanced state of mind and body.
Two months ago, I thought it would be impossible for me to bend forward and feel my toes. However, with the right breathing technique and regular practice, I realized that flexibility is of the mind, not the body.
You Will Need a Trained Yoga Instructor to Guide You
When I decided to try yoga, I first browsed through a few books that could guide me in this field. I found nearly 20 to 30 different books that promised to make me a pro at performing yoga in a week or ten days. Fortunately, I was too confused to choose any of them and instead decided to enroll in a yoga retreat.
I discovered later that learning the various postures on your own can either cause immense damage to your body or may lead you to practice postures that aren’t apt for achieving your fitness goals. A certified yoga instructor, however, can offer you the right knowledge and guidance on the benefits of each posture, the most relevant poses for you, and how to practice them.
You Do Not Have to Be Religious to Practice Yoga
I have come to realize that though yoga shares its roots with Hinduism and Buddhism, it has nothing to do with being religious. Yoga is a bridge that connects you to your inner self.
An analogy to this would be martial arts. Mastering Kung Fu doesn’t require you to accept Buddhism; similarly, practicing yoga doesn’t require you to follow any particular faith. Yoga is non-sectarian.
I am not a religious person, however, when I practice yoga, I achieve a sense of contentment that makes me a spiritual person.
These past two months I’ve come to realize that the yogic journey is full of rewards and an excellent way to connect with your inner self. I can’t be more grateful for making that decision.
Want to live a similar experience? Go to BookYogaRetreats.com and search the yoga holiday that better suits you, you’ll definitely find a retreat that fits your budget!
Read more stories by Swati at Practo.com.