Why I Love Yoga

Don’t think yoga is for you? It’s time to think again. Yoga can positively impact your health.

Benefits of yoga, girl doing yoga in front of a window

Let’s be clear on one thing: I didn’t love yoga for a very long time. In fact, when I went to my first few yoga classes, it just made me roll my eyes. I had no idea why everyone was breathing loudly or why I had to be “mindful” and “connect with my body.” I didn’t know what mindfulness meant, and I didn’t care: I just wanted a nap.

But at my current employer, yoga classes are offered free throughout the day for all employees, so I figured an hour away from my desk was worth enduring a few downward dogs. The yoga room at work was different than any others I’d been in: the lights were off, the floor was cushioned, and there were dim salt lamps in each corner. Without being able to clearly see the other students, I was forced to focus on my own practice. And that’s when I changed my mind about yoga.

Related: Yoga Poses That Relieve Stress and Anxiety

What I love about yoga now, after having done it consistently for over a year, is that it chases away anxiety and allows me to gain control over my thoughts. In other classes I had taken, I had struggled to understand yoga breathing. But my current yoga teacher will gently prompt us to inhale and exhale, and that rhythm coordinates with the flow of the poses.

When I’m forced to focus on my breath and my movement, there’s no room for the rush of thoughts that usually vie for my attention the rest of the day outside of class. For just an hour, I’m allowed freedom from external concerns and I can pay attention to what’s happening to my body in that moment.

It never dawned on me that people actually improved at yoga. I figured you were either born flexible or you weren’t. But here’s what I know now: you do get better. It’s magical to feel myself improve in certain poses.

I’ve also noticed that my body is constantly changing. Last week I was great at a standing balance pose, and for some reason, that same pose isn’t happening this week. It’s not a big deal; it’s just how things are for right now, and that’ll change. Some poses I’ll never be able to do, and that’s okay too. There’s no right or wrong, no prescription for success, and no benchmark for excellence in yoga. It’s a gentle practice that’s all about your own personal progress.

Related: Five Key Poses to Start Your Yoga Practice

Which brings me to possibly my favorite thing about yoga: It’s for everyone. I’m not thin and I have short legs and short arms, but I can still do yoga. In my classes, there are men and women, young and old, and short and tall people. Some of us are a little larger and some of us are a little smaller. For a long time, I believed that yoga was only meant for a certain body type, but yoga is for humans (and for goats).

Yogis like Jessamyn Stanley are changing the perception of yoga, but it was only when I stopped comparing myself to others that I accepted yoga was actually meant for me. And it’s meant for you, too. There’s no more peaceful feeling than finishing a yoga class and confronting your day recharged and re-centered.

Give yoga a shot. You don’t need expensive stretchy pants—you just need an open mind and the willingness to complete a few classes before the magic sets in.

While you’re here, check out my other healthy living articles.  

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