Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve the silence?
- Sathya Sai Baba
16 December 2020
As 2020 crawls its way towards the finish line, I’m sure I am not the only one who is very much looking forward to having a few days off next week to rest and restore after what has been a rollercoaster of a year.
Months of working from home, staying away from friends and family and walking the same local paths for fresh air and exercise, with little opportunity to mix up routines and go somewhere new, can be wearing for even the most resilient of us. Add to this the emotional highs and lows which naturally accompany times of such severe disruption and uncertainty, and the energy which many of us have put in to restructuring our daily lives, relationships and, in some cases, source of income, it’s no wonder that we feel drained and stale. I for one, am certainly looking forward to the festive period more than ever this year, and, judging by the eagerness with which trees, lights and decorations went up at the start of December in my local area, I’m not the only one!
But once the celebrations are done (in whatever form they take), gifts exchanged, and decorations packed away, 2021 will arrive with, let’s face it, almost certainly strict restrictions to welcome it in. It is likely that, for many of us, the start of 2021 is going to look very similar to the end of 2020. It will be down to each of us to create something new, exciting and different for ourselves.
Many of us see the New Year as a time for a fresh start – a time to commit to a healthier lifestyle, a different mental attitude, or a more productive routine. We set new goals, renew old intentions, and create purpose and focus as we motivate ourselves to start again. This year, it seems, stoking that motivation, inspiration, energy and excitement, will be more important than ever.
That’s when yoga comes in. If you have ever, even for a moment, entertained the idea of trying a yoga class, but never quite found the courage or time to see it through, then I would encourage you to make it a New Year’s resolution to give it a go. Even if you firmly believe that yoga is not for you, I would ask that you think twice, and try it out, even if it’s just the one class. There are many false preconceptions surrounding yoga; that you can only do it if you are flexible, that it is simply a series of stretches, that it’s an easy exercise mainly for women, etc. none of which are true. The practice of yoga will make you more flexible – lack of flexibility will not prevent you from enjoying the practice; vinyasa yoga is a dynamic flow of powerful poses which will strengthen and tone all of the muscles in your body, and probably have you work up a bit of a sweat; the practice of yoga is ancient and far from simple, and was purely practised by men until the second half of the 20th century.
Yoga has a complex history, and deep philosophical roots. The benefits of the practice go way beyond the physical, and that’s why it can be so addictive! Here are just 5 reasons why 2021 should be the year that you give yoga a go:
1) INCREASED FOCUS:
Not only will taking up the practice of yoga mix up your lockdown routine, and give you a new skill which to practice and focus your efforts on improving, but, with time, your ability to focus and concentrate in daily life, even with distractions, will improve. In yoga, we train our minds to remain focused on our body and our breath from one moment to the next, guiding our attention back to the present whenever we find ourselves distracted by thoughts or disturbances. Some poses can only be achieved with full concentration and focus, reinforcing the need to let go of anything extra that is not serving us.
2) REDUCED STRESS: A physical yoga practice combines movement through postures (asanas) with a steady and controlled breath. The very act of taking the time to slow and deepen our breathing, and exhale fully, is a physical trigger to our nervous system to relax. Furthermore, by making the time in our busy days to stop, still our minds and reconnect to our bodies, we allow our thoughts to settle, and gain greater clarity and perspective as to what is important.
3) INCREASED ENERGY & WELLBEING: The very act of moving, stretching and flowing gets the blood pumping into our extremities, and changes our state of energy. We can all be guilty of putting our own needs last when things get busy, but this can just lead to a vicious cycle of exhaustion and reduced productivity. By dedicating your yoga practice as time for yourself, you will finish feeling restored, energised and fulfilled. As you build kindness and compassion for yourself during your practice, this will then spread into more aspects of your daily life, and out towards those around you, leading to a feeling of greater contentment and wellbeing.
4) INCREASED STRENGTH, FLEXIBILITY & BALANCE: A yoga sequence is built on simple movements which can be accessed by those of all abilities, mobilities and levels of experience. Variations on these simple movements can make them easier or more challenging depending on the strength or flexibility in your body on that particular day. The beauty of yoga is that its repetitive nature makes it quick to pick up, and the body quick to strengthen as it learns to move through the poses with control and to carry its own weight. Never dismiss the possibility of being able to do a certain pose – I have learnt from experience that one day, without warning, your own strength will surprise you, and your body will just take you there! Anything is possible!
5) WEIGHT LOSS, IMPROVED RESPIRATION & CARDIO HEALTH: A secondary product of improving muscle strength is that the body’s metabolism is increased in order to provide the energy to feed and grow the muscles. The sustained physical effort and movement involved in practising yoga also increases calorie consumption, so has the potential to lead to weight loss. As I have already mentioned, the breath plays an important part of any yoga practice. We learn to deepen and control our breathing in order to use our lungs to a greater capacity. With regular practice, this can lead to improved respiration and cardio health.
Alongside the benefits listed above, beginning a regular yoga practice will also help to improve your quality of sleep and your posture, and reduce risk of injury by strengthening bones and muscles.
Even after listing and exploring the benefits here, words cannot do justice to the physical and mental benefits which you will experience from your practice. In many ways, with yoga it is a case of just having to try it for yourself in order to see what all of the fuss is about!
The beauty of the practice is that the same poses are experienced by all of us in different ways, from day to day and class to class. I can’t tell you how you will feel, or exactly what you will get from your yoga practice. All I can say is that it is a journey, and a powerful one at that. It is my intention to enable and empower all who choose to continue on that journey, or to simply take the first steps.
I hope that you will consider making 2021 the year that you pick up your own yoga journey. If you do, I would love to help you on the way!
Read more information about my own journey here and discover the classes that I offer (online and in-person when restrictions allow), here. If you would like to get in touch, I would love to hear from you! Please email email@example.com.