I’ve incorporated exercise into my life for years-with activities like long distance running, triathlons, hard-core boot camps and intense Bikram Yoga challenges. I’ve always loved how these intense routines make me feel.
About a year and a half ago, however, something changed. I felt burned out from all the demands of launching a new business, and the hard-core exercise was no longer nourishing me. Instead, I felt depleted and like my body was reaching its stress limits. Being an adrenaline junkie, I never thought Yoga would be the norm for me. But I tried it anyway. Was I surprised when I found that it was helping my body heal, while at the same time, calming my mind. It changed me so much that it’s now become my grounding force in my chaotic world. I practice 4 times a week and can’t live without it!
What Kind of Yoga?
There are many different types of yoga. Which one you choose to practice at any one time usually depends on the benefits you’re looking for.
I’ve been focusing more of my efforts on Vinyasa yoga lately. I did a Kundalini yoga workshop recently, though, and also felt benefits from that, so I’ll start incorporating it into my weeks too. I also found a new way to be in nature and do yoga with a new form called Yoga Hike. I did it with a few girlfriends and had an amazing experience.
I want to share with you all the benefits and what my yoga practice is doing for my mind, body, and spirit, and give you some tips for how you can get started, if you want to try it. There’s a type of yoga for everyone, so I encourage you to try at least one. Your mind and body will thank you!
What is Vinyasa Yoga?
The most popular type of yoga in the U.S., vinyasa is a dynamic type of movement that uses a progressive series of postures accompanied by breathing exercises, with one movement flowing into the next with a nice, calm rhythm. The word “vinyasa” means “breath synchronized by movement,” and this type of yoga is sometimes called “vinyasa flow” because of the way all the poses flow together with the in and out of the breath.
Here are the benefits I’m experiencing:
- My Body Feels Purified + Detoxified Afterwards. We not only detoxify through our skin, blood and liver, but through the lungs. So breathe, breathe and breathe! The deep breathing makes me feel so clean and energizes me. In addition, even though I’m not running around the block or jumping up and down, I do sweat during my practice, as the flow of one movement to the next creates heat, helping to expel toxins and delivering important nutrients and oxygen to the organs and tissues of my body. When I’m done, I feel new and my skin even looks better!
- I Feel Stronger. Doing these exercises four times a week as I am now makes me feel stronger. I feel like there’s no way I’m getting sick! Did you know that one study by Washington State University researchers of breast cancer survivors found that yoga boosts the immune system? Another study from the Ohio State University found that women who had practiced yoga regularly for at least two years had lower levels of inflammation in their bodies. I believe it, as I feel like my body is strong and ready to fight off any viruses or bacteria I come into contact with.
- I Feel Centered. After a few weeks of regular practice, I noticed my mind quieting down and my thinking becoming more focused. If I do just one hour of yoga after a chaotic day, it changes the rhythm of my experience and shifts my perspective to a more peaceful place. I’m not talking about being relaxed here, though that’s part of it. It’s more like I’m able to more easily quiet the stressful chatter that often goes through my head, and center myself to feel more at peace, wherever I am. Yogis say that’s because of the breathing exercises, which help release energy blockages in the body and focus the mind. It’s like a physical form of meditation.
- I’m Accepting Myself. One of the teachings in yoga is to accept yourself where you are. There may be others in the class who are stronger, more flexible, or more experienced, but the whole point of the exercise is to accept where your body is at the moment, and let it be. Some days I feel like I could stretch my heels over the back of my head, but other days I’m as tight as a steel string. I have learned that when I let go of frustrations and just accept where I am, my body lets go into the stretch, and my spirit relaxes. This is a great lesson to apply to many areas of life!
- I Feel More Energy. I’m not talking just the “I got enough sleep” energy, either. That’s one type of energy, and that’s good. This is more a “I can’t wait for the day to start” energy. It’s not just more energy in the body, but more energy in the mind. There is more space in between my thoughts. It’s a new, clear energy, like a fresh glass of spring water.
If you want to try this kind of yoga for yourself, here are some quick tips for getting started. Let me know how you do. I’d be really surprised if you don’t notice a complete life change!
- Check with your doctor first, to make sure you have no medical limitations that may make yoga or other exercises dangerous for you.
- Find a class with a qualified instructor. This is really the best way to start, as the instructor can give you feedback on how you’re doing so you’re sure to start out right. Doing yoga at home may create bad habits and even increase your risk of injury.
- Find out what you need to bring. Many studios offer rental equipment, but you may want your own mat, some workout clothes, or other basic yoga equipment.
- Remember-it’s not a competition. Don’t worry about what the other people in the class are doing. Focus on your body and your breath.
- When you go to your first yoga class, arrive a little early and let the instructor know that you’re a beginner, so he or she can watch out for you.
Have you tried vinyasa yoga? Please share your experience.
Photo courtesy The Yoga Shala via Flickr.com.
Christine Bude Nyholm,”Breast Cancer Survivors Boost Immune System with Yoga,” Yahoo News, May 3, 2007. http://voices.yahoo.com/breast-cancer-survivors-boost-immune-system-yoga-315543.html?cat=68.
Rachael Rettner, “Yoga Shows Potential to Ward Off Certain Diseases,” Live Science, August 25, 2010, http://www.livescience.com/11154-yoga-shows-potential-ward-diseases.html.