September is National Yoga Month!
This article was authored by yogi, higher education professional, health & happiness blogger, Stephanie Kirylych.
I’m very excited to celebrate National Yoga Month with you. My first downward facing dog was one year ago and I haven’t looked back since. I can’t believe how much has changed since incorporating yoga into my daily life. Yoga is a fantastic full body workout but its’ impact is far reaching. I’ve discovered five surprising benefits of a regular yoga practice.
1. Pain Management
Yoga has the ability to heal your body. I’ve suffered from chronic back pain and migraines for my entire adult life. Prior to establishing my yoga practice I tried chiropractors, acupuncture, physical therapy, and medication with limited success. Within one month of hitting the yoga mat my headaches were under control and my back pain nonexistent. Is yoga the miracle cure? No, but it works your body in a way unlike any other workout that I’ve experienced. You are stretching, massaging and strengthening all at the same time. This allows you to relieve tension and build your muscles back up simultaneously.
I think of my yoga mat as a mobile spa. While some love the experience of sitting in a steam room, I’ll take seated spinal twists any day. Yoga postures naturally detoxify by pushing, pulling, and twisting all parts of your body and organs and improving blood circulation. As a result digestion can improve, you may notice increased energy and your skin will have a healthy yogi glow. Just remember to drink your water after yoga class!
3. Quality of Sleep
A regular fitness routine will usually impact your sleep for the better but yoga has taken my sleep to the next level. It has assisted me in not only falling asleep faster but also experiencing a deeper, more restful sleep. Yoga incorporates stretching, strength training, breathing, and meditation in a way that nourishes your body and mind. The practice can quiet your mind and relieve stress. I’ve found that gentle yoga poses before bed can be instrumental in falling asleep naturally.
4. Learning to Breathe
I didn’t realize how shallow my breath was until I learned yogic breath. I had been taking short and labored breaths and often felt like I had to stop to catch my breath. Yogic breathing starts in your stomach and moves into your lungs. A simple tool to check for proper breathing is to place your hands on your stomach and breathe naturally through your nose. Your stomach should expand on each inhale and contract on each exhale. The first time I did this, I realized that I had the opposite of yogic breath. I’ve used my yoga practice to retrain my breathing and it has impacted not only my time on the mat. I’m able to run farther, my mind is clearer and my concentration has improved.
5. Letting go of Perfectionism
Yoga teaches patience and acceptance. I was incredibly frustrated during my first yoga experience because I wasn’t strong enough for chaturanga (yoga push-up). I didn’t want to “cheat” by doing the modified push-up that was offered. And then the instructor (none other than Kristin McGee) reminded us that yoga is about our own experience and listening to our bodies. I moved the focus inward and not to the left or right of my mat. Once I let go of fear, embarrassment and pride I was able to open myself up to the experience. Yoga is about the process: finding the correct posture and focusing on breathing. The emphasis is on listening to your body and making necessary adjustments. It’s not about how fast you can run a mile or how much weight you can lift. Yoga shows you how to accept where you are, envision where you hope to be and have the patience to enjoy the ride.
National Yoga Month is a great time to discover the benefits of yoga or recommit to your practice. If you are new to yoga, take advantage of the free week pass offered by the Yoga Health Foundation. In addition, many studios are celebrating with free classes and events throughout September for new and experienced yogis alike. I hope to see you on the mat!
About Stephanie Kirylych
Stephanie Kirylych is a higher education professional who has been known to practice yoga in the office, teach breathing and meditation techniques during staff meetings and is never without her mason jar of water or green juice. She spends her free time blogging at www.lattesandlaughs.com about an everyday approach to health and happiness. She is excited to share her passion for yoga, meditation, green juice and smoothies, and avocado with her readers. Stephanie hopes to inspire others to join the wellness revolution by incorporating small and practical changes into their daily lives.
Ready to get STRONGER, LONGER, and MORE FOCUSED?