Why I practise yoga

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

I've been interested in yoga for quite a while now, maybe three years or so, but back when I first got into it I didn't look too much into the meaning or benefits of it; it was simply a form of exercise that I enjoyed. Even then, I didn't do it that often - I just followed a 45 minute video of very gentle yoga whenever I felt like it. Over the last two years, though, I've become more and more interested in it, and I've learned a little about the different styles of yoga, the benefits (both mental and physical), and over the last few months I've progressed from following Youtube videos to finding my own flow. During that time, yoga has become increasingly important to me, and I do my best to practice every day (although I somewhat neglected it whilst I was doing my exams), and since it's so important to me I thought I'd write a little post about it.

At first I though yoga was only about relaxing and increasing flexibility, and my practice was very slow and gentle, much like hatha yoga. If you're looking for something to ease tight muscles that isn't too challenging or dynamic, I would definitely recommend this sort of yoga.

I took a break for a while about two and a half years ago and didn't do yoga very often at all, but I got back into it when I found Sadie Nardini's Youtube channel. I was trying to get in shape so I had a little browse online and came across Sadie's 'weightloss yoga' videos. Her vinyasa routines were much faster and more intense than any yoga I had done before, and there was more focus on linking breath and movement. I really enjoyed following Sadie's videos, so from there I started to find more videos to follow, most of which were vinyasa routines, too.

I also attended a few yoga classes at college earlier this year, and after that I stopped following videos altogether and experimented with my own flow, and that's what I do almost every time now. I follow a few yogis on Instagram (this girl is a huge inspiration - her flow is so beautiful and she's incredibly strong) and they provide a lot of inspiration. Since playing around with my own flow, I've found that my practice feels much more natural and personal, and it really encourages me to listen to my body and what it needs. I've also gotten a lot stronger a lot quicker, and I push myself further than I ever did when I was following videos.

Yoga has a lot of physical benefits - if you challenge yourself to take on more advanced poses, you can build a lot of strength and muscle tone (yes!), and if you move at a faster pace you can give your cardiovascular system a workout and build up quite a sweat, keeping you looking and feeling fit.

You can also get a sense of achievement from yoga - there are few things more satisfying than mastering the pose you've been working towards for the last month! Seeing and feeling your strength and flexibility increase is incredibly rewarding and only encourages you to practice more, and it makes you realise the amazing things your body is capable of if you guide it in the right direction.

But for me, the most important part of yoga is the connection you build within yourself, particularly when you use your own flow. Since using your own flow means you have to bring your attention to your breath and your movements, which strengthens the link between the two, all of your attention has to be on what you're doing rather than the fifty thoughts flying through your head. This makes your practice somewhat like meditation, and as a result you feel more grounded and in tune with yourself. You learn to trust your body to support you, but you also learn its limits and how to ease it into more difficult poses. When you really listen to your body, you can feel any areas that need stretching or any areas that you need to go easy on, and you can shape your practice around those needs. This intuition can be extended beyond your practice, and you can become more aware of your body in your daily life, listening out for any aches or pains and knowing what your body needs to recover from it.

It's difficult to sum up what yoga means to me without waffling, but this at least touches on the main reasons why I value it so much, and perhaps in the future I can do more posts which focus more on specific areas.



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