What made you become interested in yoga for the very first time?
Many people are attracted to the grace, flexibility, and strength yoga can offer. Some give it a shot because they love group fitness classes, and yoga happened to be available at the gym.
Older first-timers with an eye on their golden years might be interested in the improved balance and mobility, and potentially fewer hospital visits due to falls. Then there are a few who observed other yoga practitioners and saw something deeper they wanted for themselves.
Peace. Mindfulness. Control. Grace. Strength. Contentedness. Such quiet things we yearn for. When we see them in another, such a spirit is generated in us, a more profound yearning even than when we began. To find a yogi who can lead us down a gentle path toward these things is to find the path itself.
And once embarked, we can change. We find the things we must shed, the things we must carry, the things which were never ours, to begin with, and we begin to glimpse the person we truly are and the soul we may become.
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By definition, the word transformation does not indicate a fixed period of time. It can be gradual, like the change of a tadpole into a frog. Or it could be almost immediate, like a chemical reaction. But for a human being to be transformed, there must be a re-focusing of the mind and soul – and that’s going to take some time.
Having the desire for this process is the first step, but that first step should be onto a yoga mat for it to take root. Overnight change isn’t going to happen, but so many incredible “side effects” occur that we look forward to our time on the mat every day.
Mental clarity, physical stamina and flexibility, and a quieter mind are all legitimate expectations when we begin a yoga practice. And they have a way of sneaking up on you; you may find yourself focusing on your breath in that traffic jam on the interstate instead of becoming anxious or angry.
Perhaps your performance at work seems improved since you started yoga, or maybe relationships in your life are more transparent. Yoga practice brings you closer to what you seek, offers support on the journey, and deepens your love of life.
Study after study shows that mindfulness, meditation, and yoga do as much for our well-being as an hour a day at the gym. After a month at the gym, you may see some physical results, but there will be days you don’t go, when you simply find you have too many urgent things that need to be done, or just don’t have the willpower to pack your bag, get the kids into the car, or spend that much time at the end of the day when you’re already tired.
If your wellness routine were done at home, in a mere 20 minutes of stretching, strength- and balance-building, and intentional breathing exercises, you could see and feel results almost immediately.
Physical exercise contributes to restful sleep, no doubt. But when the mind is not at ease, sleep will be difficult, restless, and unfulfilling, regardless of how many miles you ran on the treadmill.
The combination of yoga and meditation is a powerful antidote for anxiety, physical weakness, even insomnia, and digestive disorders. So why don’t more people opt for this fitness approach?
Unfortunately, as with anything that morphs in the culture in which it is expressed, yoga has become stereotyped into a practice dominated by young, fit females. Why would a middle-aged, overweight person, male or female, want to cram into yoga pants (required, right?) and fall all over their yoga mat in a class full of slender, graceful yogis?
Yet yoga was never meant to be reserved for a certain group of people. It is and always will be something for everyone because everyone needs peace, health, and a mind at rest.
So for you, the person considering a yoga practice puts thoughts of more, harder, faster, and especially yoga pants out of your mind. Think of yourself as someone deserving a healthy body and mind through the gentle, mindful practice of yoga.
Our yoga practice won’t feel complete because it’s missing many of the key elements. Yoga is not about following your body, because that’s what your body does. It’s about your spirit. It’s about loving yourself unconditionally. For many of us, it can be challenging to even breathe in some of the key beginning yoga positions.
But, it’s okay. When we’re in our imperfect bodies, we can use our breath to find our home. Breathe slowly and deeply into your core and savor the freedom of creation.
There’s much more than a good flexibility training program that can help us attain our yoga goals. We must continue to cultivate a spirit of dedication to our practice, coupled with discipline, and respect for ourselves and others. It is a kind of health that comes only through practice.
When we begin to take a yoga practice seriously, the mind will often drift away. That’s okay. During the process of creating a yoga practice, we must be very firm and take care not to go over our heads.
What if, instead of trying harder, we tried easier? What if we only committed to 20 minutes a day of an easy, at-home regimen of being kind to ourselves? What if we substituted quiet breath for the protein shakes? What would become of us?