It has been a tough few months, mentally. We have all been riding the roller coaster of this worldwide pandemic through feelings of uncertainly, fear and worry. So why not bring some focus back onto the things that are positive in our lives. In the practice of yoga, you will use breathing exercises and controlled conscious movements to bring focus to your often-busy mind. With all those endorphins floating around it is this time that will give you the space to recognise what you are grateful for and to set intentions for yourself, tuning in with what you feel is truly important in your life.
There is no doubt yoga helps to bring a deeper sense of awareness to your own body, teaching you to become more in tune with what your body needs to feel good. And when it comes to fuelling your body perhaps yoga might just be the positive influence you need to start you on that new-found healthy eating plan you have been procrastinating over. Green smoothies and Nourish Bowls here you come!
Studies have shown that doing some light physical activity before our heads hit the pillow can really help with sleep. And yoga in particular has the ability to simulate the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering cortisol levels and releasing tension in the body. This is what helps you to feel relaxed, resulting not only in getting to sleep but also in getting a far better quality of sleep.
Think of yoga as an opportunity to take some time out for yourself, a little me-time, a little self-love and time to distress. During the practice of yoga, you will likely have the chance to reset, either through a short meditation, some breathing exercises or perhaps in Savasana (relaxation pose) at the end of the class. It is these moments where you really turn your attention to your breath as you are encouraged to take long, deep inhale and exhalations. The simple act of deep conscious breaths can release physical tension that you might subconsciously be holding on to, reduce the feeling of anxiety & stress, improve cognitive function, lower blood pressure, and ultimately shift your state of mind.
But yoga doesn’t just have to be about Zen meditations and savasana. Depending on the style and intensity of your practice, yoga can in fact give you a very wholesome fully body workout with elements of cardio, strength and functional movements in many yoga classes. There is now a whole host of different yoga styles available, all with different aims and objectives. Whether you are after a more restorative practice with a meditative Yin Yoga Class, or the more traditional teachings of an Iyengar class or maybe a dynamic modern twist with Power Yoga or Yoga Fusion, there is a style of yoga to suit everyone and every fitness level. Yoga is all about learning to listen to your body and moving in a way that feels good for you no matter what this looks like.
Having been limited to the confines of your living room during this lockdown period it is likely you have lost a great deal of strength and perhaps gained a few niggly pains in your joints. Maybe it’s that persistent back pain from laying on the couch for too long or some RSI from all those house chores? This is where yoga can really aid the body. Many yoga poses are very dynamic both lengthening and stretching one side of the body whilst simultaneously strengthening and toning the muscles of the other. It is these poses that loosen those overstimulated muscles and slowly build strength in the opposing muscles to create better posture and freer movement in the joints.
How many times have you caught yourself huffing and puffing when you are in a stressful situation. Whether it be that work deadline is fast approaching, the kids driving you nuts at the grocery store or the exceedingly long line of banked up traffic on your way home. It is often the breath that inhibits us from moving past this anxiety, taking short sharp breaths only heightens tension in the body and negatively triggers the sympathetic nervous system. Through yoga you will learn how to breath consciously. This practice is called Pranayama, the control of vital energies or control of the breath. Conscious breathing helps to exchange a much greater quantity of air, helping to oxygenate your blood, nourishing every cell, ultimately soothing the nervous system. So, even when you leave your yoga mat you can take these same breathing techniques with you that you can incorporate in your everyday life.
The aim of any yoga practice it to cultivate loving kindness. This is achieved for your body through conscious movement and awareness, for the mind through positive self-talk, through the use of energy by balancing work and rest, and through deep nourishing breaths. And we all know, that in being kind to ourselves helps us to develop mental habits that promotes kindness to others. Be the change you want to see in the world.
It has never been easier to practice yoga even from the comfort of your own home with an abundance of excellent online content that is often even free! Whether you’re trying yoga for the first time or coming back to a regular practice after a prolonged break there are classes online for everyone from esteemed yoga practitioners worldwide. Connect with a few of our favourites; Yoga with Adriene, Boho Beautiful, Alo Yoga, Sarah Beth Yoga or Aussie goddess Sjana Elise.
What more excuses do you need to hit the mat?!
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