Yoga is something for lean and flexible people who are able to bring their feet easily behind their head! Did I catch you out with this misconception?
The public image of yoga is usually formed by observing people who are either very into the yoga way of life or who have a need to show how good and flexible they are in public. However, this is not what Yoga is supposed to be.
Sure, it comes from an ancient Indian tradition and the knowledge of yoga and Ayurveda was passed from one generation to another for thousands of years. But yoga in modern times has (or can have) a different meaning for many people. It’s not an “all-or-nothing lifestyle” where you either do yoga several times a week, meditate and start a vegan lifestyle, or you do not practice any yoga at all. You can define how much yoga you want to have in your life; it’s your own choice.
I’m really convinced, that yoga these days starts at the yoga mat and, to a lesser extent, in a spiritual belief. For many people the importance and meaning of yoga develop through their experience of yoga practice, even if they couldn’t imagine it before.
Here are 5 reasons why you should start including some yoga in your life even if you thought (up to now) that you did not need it and that it was not your kind of “sport”:
In contrast to other forms of physical training yoga is not easy by any means, and also includes the requirement to be mindful while practicing. This is a part which is mostly neglected in other forms of training. Yoga offers the chance to learn to listen to your body. Some days you may need to be more careful in your practice, while on other days you may have a lot of energy and power.
Sometimes I hear the excuse “I can’t do Yoga, because I’m not flexible”. This is like not taking a bath because you are dirty! Your yoga practice is not better when you are very flexible. That’s a misconception. Flexibility will improve by practicing yoga; it’s not a prerequisite to start. It’s a learning process and you should not compare yourself with your neighbour in the class; the benefit yoga can have for you is not based on touching your toes. Improved flexibility will enhance your health by increasing the range of motion of muscles and ligaments, improving your posture and reducing tension that is often caused by a sedentary lifestyle and computer work. In the long run this will largely support your wellbeing and avoid injuries.
Yoga can be a great tool for improving your performance, mental game, core stability and the quality of your recovery. Reaching the necessary range of motion for your sport (e.g. Karate, Running, Golf, Boxing) will improve your performance and technique and reduce your risk of injury. Even a short yoga flow can work wonders if it’s done regularly. But refrain from yoga before any competition. It can be too calming, which may be counterproductive to the state of activation (physical and mental) which is required to compete. But it is a great addition when recovering from hard training or competition in combination with other treatments.
Stress related disorders are on the rise. From headaches, sleeping problems, high blood pressure, back and shoulder pain, alcohol and drug abuse, to stomach pain, many problems are related to chronic stress. It decreases your quality of life, reduces your income, increases the cost of medication and treatments and seriously harms your health.
Next to the different strategies like improving time management, sharing responsibilities and letting go of some control, yoga is a great way to release stress hormones, focus on your mindful practice, stop your brain from overthinking, relax your muscles and balance your mind. With all these great benefits you might even be able to change the cause of your stress because it changes your perspective of your situation.
Functional and Core training are still the latest fashion in the carousel of sports business. But it is not as much up to date as you might think: the Indians invented functional training already nearly 5,000 years ago, they just called it – you name it – yoga: Functional movements with your body weight, requiring strength and flexibility. There are not many exercises which are more functional than yoga.
Yoga is a great way to include core and bodyweight exercises in your schedule while increasing flexibility and mindfulness as well as simultaneously reducing stress and tension. If there would be any medication with these benefits, it would be priceless!
To start with some yoga it is helpful to try different classes and teachers. If you don’t like the kind of yoga and the way a certain teacher is teaching, you may conclude that you don’t like yoga. However, you may need to try a couple of classes before you find “the one”. Another tip is to ask your friends who generally know your taste and sport preferences if they can recommend a class!
I hope that you are curious enough to test the benefits that yoga can have for you!
Take some time to get familiar with yoga. With the new words for all exercises (Asanas) at the beginning it might feel like learning a new language! After 3 or 4 classes you will begin to feel more comfortable and will experience the great feeling of being thoroughly relaxed and balanced after a class.