I often refer to Yoga as a ‘crucible for change’: For me Yoga is a way of life that rewires my brain and gives me the opportunity for development in a thousand different ways. I practice Yoga to be mindful inside of my body, more conscious of how it feels, but also to be more mindful in my actions and behaviours. I use meditation to be accepting of those things I cannot change, and mindfulness to consciously control how I respond to them.
Yoga is often used as a tool to improve flexibility, and that tends to be the main reason for people coming to class. For a lot of people their first response to being invited to a Yoga class is “Oh I’m not flexible at all” – neither am I, that’s why I recommend Yoga!
For those that participate in physically repetitive or strenuous activities Yoga can be a way of releasing muscle tension and maintaining range of motion, crucial to ensure you perform to the best of your ability.
But Yoga is much more than a ‘stretch-and-tone’ class or a gymnastics workout. Yoga is a great way of being able to train yourself to relax, reduce stress and live a calmer life (something we all need in a University with deadlines and exams).
Yoga can be seen as a practice in mindfulness, training the mind to withdraw from whatever else is going on outside of you (both in the room and the rest of your life), helping to develop your ability to focus. Such self-control is rarely taught outside of Yoga and can sometimes be frustrating to beginners: like every other skill in life it gets easier with practice, and eventually becomes more natural. These skills are important to you in so many situations, from focusing on your studies to maintaining your focus when competing or simply being able to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day and get a better night’s sleep.
For some people Yoga is an element of their spiritual or religious practice, a way to honour themselves as an element of their own faith. Yoga has deep roots that have grown entwined with religious practices such as Hinduism and Buddhism. For myself I don’t prescribe to a specific faith, but still feel that Yoga makes me something more than I would be without it. You don’t need to have any specific belief set to get the benefit of Yoga.
Yoga also helps in recognising how you deal with challenges: do you push through any discomfort to hold the pose? Do you quit as soon as something starts to feel challenging? Do you need to distract yourself from whatever you’re doing if it doesn’t feel easy? Can you keep your focus when it feels like you’ve done this pose a million times before?
An awareness of your patterns of thinking gives you the opportunity to ask yourself “Is this the best way for me to act in this moment? Does this serve me? Can I change this to better serve me?” Applying this in your practice makes using such self-reflective processes in the wider world far easier, giving you the chance to control the only element in this life you really can – yourself.
Listening to your body is a great skill to have, but responding to how you feel is something more. To every stimulus we have some degree of emotional response, an ingrained reflex that we rarely even consider. Through Yoga you can become more aware of what you feel in the moment, and gift yourself the opportunity of studying why you feel that way: this can make you more resilient to whatever you experience and put you in a better position to respond wisely.
As a final word Yoga is enjoyable: whatever you get from it Yoga is an opportunity for you to dedicate some time to develop yourself, however you want to, and I hope that I can help you to achieve that.
Hope to see you soon,