I used to think that yoga was boring. When it comes to exercising, I’ve always enjoyed the type of activity where I can’t zone out. Whether it was lifting heavy, martial arts, or running for time it was important for me to remain focused. I’ve always been open to trying new things and have always heard about the benefits of yoga so I decided to give it a shot.
I first tried it out in college and remembered finding it frustratingly unexciting. My initial impression when I started yoga was that it is unreasonably challenging. I had a hard time maintaining my concentration during these classes. I thought that yoga was supposed to keep my body relaxed, but instead I felt unfocused.
Since lifting weights has always been a big passion of mine I would constantly look for ways to make gains in and out of the weight room. I soon realized that I had to put just as much effort into gaining flexibility in my muscles to prevent injury and increase my range of motion.
After years of dabbling in and out of classes I decided to take my mom to a class to inspire a healthy change in her lifestyle. Although I did not enjoy it as much, I would continue to go consistently because I wanted to keep my mom accountable. Long and behold after a few sessions and without even realizing it I just started to feel better!
Here are a few things I learned to appreciate along the way:
1.) Remembering to breathe– This may sound crazy, but sometimes my days are so hectic that I forget to take a moment to just breathe . Yoga instilled good breathing habits for me that I apply daily away from the mat. From deep breathing to slow breathing, I learned to control my movements with my breath. My weightlifting benefitted greatly once I utilized my abdominal brace by breathing properly.
2.) Stress Management– Breathing properly allowed me to think more clearly and this lead to better stress management. I noticed even on my most jam-packed days my outlook on life seemed different because I felt more in control. I also learned to let go of the things that I could not control.
3.) State of Mind– Not only did yoga help me deal with stress emotionally but it also changed my state of mind. Let’s not forget what exercise does for our body. It loads our body with physical stress (in a good way of course)! How you perform under pressure dictates how your body will benefit from exercise. In yoga we hold poses for a lengthy amount of time. This allowed me to keep my mind at peace even under the most nerve-racking moments, whether it was a balance pose or a heavy attempt on a back squat .
4.) Flexibility– What good are all of your muscles if you can’t use them? In weightlifting, often times some movements would not be as efficient or heavy due to tightness in a particular muscle group. Yoga taught me stretches that allowed me to perform better in the weight room and also increased my range of motion. It is amazing to be able to reach new feats (literally) you weren’t able to reach before!
5.) Focus– In yoga, I learned it isn’t just about the poses but also about the mindfulness of oneself. The frantic demeanor I once had calmed down and I was able to focus on each task at hand and truly be present.
6.) Balance– Let me tell you, I am not the high school cheerleader I once was. It was embarrassing how much coordination I lost since stopping my old Rah Rah days but yoga helped me find that in a progressive manner and even helped me gain more kinesthetic awareness than I have ever dreamed of.