Valuable life lessons I learned from Yoga Training
Cardio Freak. That’s how one fitness trainer described me. It’s a person always looking for high impact activity to either push the heart rate up or max out the muscle energy. Or woo-hoo! Both! That’s like a beer chaser to an alcoholic.
Cardio Freaking (new word) has kept me fit and strong. The downside is that over the years it takes a toll on your body. I’m somberly admitting that I’m (cough) aging. It’s with this in mind that I decided to add more kinder and gentler exercises to my life like yoga. Guess what? You don’t have to jump 100 times or lift a hundred pounds to get a good workout and make changes in your body. Also, exercise can be very mentally stimulating and self-absorbing.
I just finished a 200-hour training with Life Power Yoga and I want to share some of the highlights I think carry beyond the gym and yoga room.
Keep your eyes on your mat.
This is a good philosophy for yoga and life. It means to focus on what you’re doing and feeling on your mat and not looking and comparing yourself to others. It’s particularly easy for beginners to get caught up watching other people and feeling inferior because they don’t know what the pose is supposed to be or they’re not as flexible as others. We do this in life as well. We worry what others are thinking and how we compare to our peers. This can elevate stress, which is bad for the heart, blood pressure, tension and immune system among other things. Find peace and confidence by focusing on you and not the guy over there.
Most of us only pay attention to our breathing when we’re running out of air. Stop and notice if you tend to take short shallow breaths. When that is combined with poor posture it could lead to aches, pains and health issues. According to the authors of Perfect Breathing most people average 15 or so breaths a minute. When we take deeper slower breaths and lower it to 10 or less a minute we stretch the lung tissues and increase our air capacity. It also shifts the body out of sympathetic nervous system and to a parasympathetic mode, which calms the body and lowers stress hormones.
The psychological benefit to focusing on your breath is relaxing your mind and staying alert.
Yoga focuses on breathing and connecting it to your body’s motion.
Squeeze Your Bandhas!
Bandha is Sanskrit for lock. You’ve probably been instructed to engage your core. The bandhas, particularly the uddiyana bandha in the abdominal area, is involved when tightening your core if done correctly. Yoga encourages engagement in three bandha areas that also include the pelvic floor and throat. These “lock” areas control flow of energy and simulate organs, blood vessels and strengthen muscles. By learning to engage these bandhas you can improve your posture and core strength among other benefits. I learned that when trying to keep good posture. I was over exaggerating my butt muscles which was leading to tightness all though my hips and lower back. When I started focusing more on my uddiyana bandha I found relief in my back.
Listen to your body.
This may be a fitness trainer cliché’ you’ve heard before but are you listening? There’s a fine line between pushing yourself to your maximum potential and over doing it. The Life Power Yoga method encourages movement that is comfortable to the individual because there is no one-size-fits-all exercise. Everybody’s bones are composed differently and while one person may have very wide hips allowing them to squat to the floor easily another will have to change the position of their legs drastically to be able to squat too. If a muscle is tight it can be warmed, stretched and over time loosened. But when bone meets bone there is nowhere for movement to go except another way. We must ask ourselves what is the point of the exercise or the movement. If it’s to work or stretch a certain body part we can find another way to reach that goal. Consider what you are you forcing your body or mind to do on a daily bases and if it might be rejecting it by sending you signals through pain.
Stretching is a must!
We can’t change our bones but we can change our muscles and stretching is essential to keeping them healthy. For anyone who knows they have tight muscles but are intimidated to try yoga I mostly highly recommend Yin or Restorative Yoga. This is a slow paced class where the emphasis is on holding long stretches aimed at stimulating the fascia, ligaments, tendons as well as muscles. If there is any tightness contributing to your aches and pains trust me, you will notice a positive change. Research has shown benefit from stretching to include preventing injury and increasing nutrients to the muscle for repair and growth. What else can you cultivate yourself to “stretch” into over time?
Live in the moment.
Yoga originally started as a meditative practice focused on breathing. We assume those pioneers thousands of years ago got a little stiff from sitting so long and added postures to stretch. Interestingly, movement was added to yoga practice only in the last century or so. Meditation with focus on the breath and even with movement forces you to stop thinking about the past and the future but be in the present moment. By training the mind to do that you can find more joy in simply getting out of bed with ease, eating a meal or being there for a friend to complain over the phone. Be sure to speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Mindfulness brings gratitude. Gratitude is the law of supply. Namaste.
Stress on the body: http://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body
The Science of Breathing:
Why You Should Stretch: https://easydrugcard.com/exercise/stretch-5-easy-ways-stretch-exercise/