What is yoga?
Yoga is described as a spiritual and ascetic discipline which includes breath control, simple meditation and the adoption of specific bodily postures (asanas); practised for health and relaxation.
How did you start?
For a long time, i’ve always admired contortionists, gymnasts, acrobats and more recently, yogis. I’ve followed so many on Instagram for a long time and it wasn’t until recently that I decided to start practising. I remember the first time I thought to myself – I want to do an inversion. The first thing I ever tried was a tripod headstand; of all things! I spent the whole day (no kidding!) trying to kick up, find my centre of balance, tap into my core… just anything to get into that headstand. By the evening, I found this sense of muscle memory and after 7 days I could hold a “pike-looking” tripod headstand and that’s where it all began. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing – I just decided to buy myself a yoga mat and at the beginning of August, I took part in my very first IG Yoga Challenge.
What did you gain from the challenge?
Consistency, mainly. The challenge reiterated the importance of daily practise. By the end of the first week, I became accustomed to “showing up to my mat” everyday and taking 45-90 minutes away from my phone… and social media… and everything else. There’s also a huge yoga community on Instagram. Being able to see other people’s posts, read their captions, recognise each persons individual journey; it’s somewhat fulfilling. I’ve always had strength, flexibility and agility as my main fitness goals – which I feel yoga has aided – but I feel as though in just a few short months it has taught me so much more.
What are the benefits?
Stress relief – I like to use the gym for stress relief. There’s nothing like going to the gym, listening to some trap music and pumping some bicep curls to burn off steam. Yoga is so different, so calming and relaxing. It’s all centred around the breath and being able to concentrate. If you aren’t mentally on your mat… you won’t be there physically either!
Strength and Flexibility – Most asanas (poses) require a lot of bends and twists which loosen the joints and promote detoxification as well as good digestion. At the same time, yoga uses the weight of your body to build and sculpt your muscles. All over!
Workout injury prevention – The one thing with yoga is it teaches you there is a difference between knowing when to give up and knowing when you have had enough. Practising yoga regularly ensures well stretched yoga muscles. These muscles will heal and recover more quickly after working out or getting strained!
Calming the mind – Committing to a relaxed mind state on my yoga mat is my only chance to slow down and breathe right. Yoga allows me to calm and tame my endless stream of thoughts. I find that this leads to greater concentration and a calmness that lasts for the rest of my day/evening.
Body Awareness – Yoga poses require balance that require you to use your core muscles. This helps you to improve your overall stability. At the same time, certain asanas strengthen and open tight areas of the body such as the shoulders and upper back muscles; this can help with posture. Also, certain asanas require you to contract or relax specific muscles which help to become aware of the body’s strengths and weaknesses.
Essentially, yoga is a form of strength training. Getting into poses and holding them for a period of time helps to strengthen the muscles such as the arms, legs, back, wrists and torso. I always considered it a spiritual thing and to some degree it is. I feel as though it is the practise of being at one with the mind as well as the body. I highly recommend it for its physical benefits as well as the mental benefits.
Have you practised yoga? How do you find it?