Yoga has existed as a practice of spiritual and physical wellness in India for millenia. If that doesn’t say something about the benefits of starting yoga then I’m not sure what will. It has become widely adopted in Western culture for the amazing physical health benefits that keep our bodies active, strong, flexible, and above all balanced. It’s also incredibly helpful from a mental wellbeing standpoint to approach each practice with the spiritual origins of yoga in mind which promote mindfulness and reduce stress.
A Simple Practice
Yoga is honestly so simple, anyone can do it. That’s not to say that anyone should be able to unroll a mat and do a headstand on their first try. There are definitely very physically demanding aspects of yoga, but most practices can be performed with differing levels of intensity. In fact yoga promotes understanding and acceptance of the limitations of our bodies. You can do it in your own home or take it on the road with you which makes it one of the most versatile exercises for you to add to your fitness journey. All you need is a yoga mat and some space.
As I’ve mentioned above, yoga is incredibly rewarding for beginners, experts, and practitioners of all levels in between. My own yoga teacher used to say: There’s always another progression. Meaning, no matter how advanced the pose might seem, there’s always some adjustment that can be made to make it more difficult. Likewise, no matter how difficult the pose might seem, there’s always an easier variation that you can do instead to work up to it. From a physical perspective, practicing yoga is about finding balance. One of the greatest benefits of doing yoga regularly is in finding the balance of strength and flexibility in each posture.
The Mind And Spirit
Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of starting a yoga practice is that we’re forced to slow down and learn to be more comfortable with where we are at this moment in time. One of the primary tenants of a number of yoga practices is finding kindness. Both toward ourselves and to others. There is also strong emphasis on meditation and finding clarity throughout the practice. Strong, measured breathing supports this focus on mindfulness. More than any other exercise, yoga strikes the balance between physical and mental wellbeing.
A Brief Introduction
Yoga is best understood through demonstration. If you can find a reputable yoga instructor then you should definitely consider taking a class, at least for your first couple of practices. A good instructor will help you to find good form and merge your physical, mental, and spiritual practice. The Ashtanga Vinyasa sequence is probably the most common style of yoga, and the most accessible sequence of yoga to practice as a beginner. To get a feel for the basic yoga you can do at home, start with a few sun salutations. Start with your feet together. Stretch your arms up high then hinge at the hips and stretch forward. Plant your hands on either side of your feet and step back into a plank. Lower yourself to the floor in a push up position then roll your chest up and forward into an upward dog posture, making sure to open through the chest, neck, shoulders, and core. Keep your feet and hands planted and send your hips back and up into a downward dog position. Find length through the spine, shoulder blades, and the back of your legs. Step your feet forward between your hands. Slowly return to a standing position and reach your hands up high once more before returning to a neutral stance.
The benefits of practicing yoga go well beyond the improvements to your flexibility that you will almost certainly notice. Be kind to yourself. Go at your own pace. You will see improvements to your strength, to your mental health, and to your overall well being. This isn’t just a fitness journey. It’s a journey of finding balance in all things within yourself.