People often come to a yoga class feeling stressed and less than impressed with themselves and their world. Afterwards, it’s a completely different story as they walk out feeling grounded and floaty, relaxed and in control, optimistic and realistic.
Here are 5 ways yoga helps you feel gooood
- You’re moving your body intentionally rather than in the un-thinking way that’s more usual. By bringing the mind and body together when you’re doing yoga postures, you’re returning your body-mind into the one conscious unit that it really is, rather than the artificial division that can happen so very easily.
- You’re working with your breath not against it and in doing so you’re allowing it full expression. When you bend backwards in yoga you inhale more fully, and do so naturally because you’re giving your lungs more room to expand. When you bend forward in yoga you allow the lungs to be emptied by a natural and deep exhalation. This fuller breathing that’s co-ordinated with your movement is the hallmark of yoga and it’s probably radically different from the way you’ve been breathing during the day. In the middle of a full-on day you may be holding your breath when you’re tense, and thereby increasing tension, or breathing shallowly into just the chest area when you’re feeling anxious, excited or under pressure to meet a deadline.
- You’re cleansing your body-mind from the outside in AND from the inside out when you combine postures, yoga breathing, meditation and relaxation. The postures help the body become more supple and the other practices help the mind become both more focused and more flexible. (Why are there are more practices for the mind? It’s because that’s where the real work takes place! It’s where yoga practice actually begins and ends, even though it seems like the action is all in the postures.)
- You’re relaxing with focus even though that sounds contradictory. Rather than fooling ourselves into thinking we’re relaxing at the end of a busy day by just flopping in front of the TV or checking Facebook, a yoga practice brings about relaxation by switching on your awareness rather than switching it off. Being zoned out by a soap or social media, and becoming relaxed by paying gentle attention to something simple are completely different experiences. The first depletes you and the second energizes you. Which would you rather have?
- You’re investing in your current and future health. When you do something great for your body and mind you can really feel it. That warm glow might be put down to endorphins, serotonin or oxytocin, but you also know at a deeper level that what you’re doing for yourself is better than putting money in the bank. That relaxed feeling right at the end of class? You’re teaching your body-mind how to do that when you need it to get to sleep or switch off. That calm feeling? You’re training yourself how to stay calm when you need it later in a heated situation. And touching your toes in a deep forward bend? You’re re-programming your body so you’ll be able to put your own socks on when you’re 92!
A yoga class which takes you systematically through postures, yoga breathing, meditation and relaxation lets you put aside your day-to-day concerns, and by focusing on the task in hand (how your body-mind is right now, what the teacher is guiding you to do) you can feel better without even trying.
What do you want from your yoga?
These are just some explanations of why you feel good after yoga. You’ll be able to add more explanations of your own with first-hand experience.
What reasons do you already have from first-hand experience of yoga? Tell me in the comments below.
And if you’re not already doing yoga, let me know which of the benefits you’re most looking forward to (and check out ways I can help you to incorporate yoga into your life.).