Happy Friday and
Happy First Day of SPRING!
This was my second winter in Chicago and it felt way harsher than last winter, even though technically it wasn’t. My theory is that I hadn’t yet experienced the glory of summer in Chicago when I first moved here in November 2013, so winter was all I knew.
Now all I can say is, is it summer yet!?
On the flip side, I am a believer in there always being a silver lining to even the most awful-seeming situations. I like to trust in the universe + mother earth to guide us and teach us important lessons, which is sometimes difficult to remember when you’re blue or just downright freezing for months on end.
One wonderfully positive thing this past winter brought me was yoga. I needed another form of “exercise meditation” since I was no longer rising with the sun and getting a run in every morning. I thrived on those runs–they brought such peace and mental clarity to me and were the perfect way to begin my day. Luckily it’s just about that time of year again when my morning schedule + the sunrise are jiving.
I have dabbled in yoga for years…hitting a class at whatever gym I was a member of, joining little studios whenever they had new customer deals (I’m a big fan of group deals like Groupon + Living Social), doing some inversion practice at home, and doing bedtime yoga to help unwind.
However, it wasn’t until this past fall that I started practicing yoga several times a week. And I didn’t realize until then how important it is to practice yoga regularly to really reap the benefits of it. That being said, you can experience temporary mental + physical benefits of yoga even after just a few minutes of practice.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the myriad benefits of yoga, including stress + anxiety relief, increased flexibility, and improved strength + balance.
The scientific literature on the positive impacts of yoga has exploded and there is way too much to describe in detail. Research shows yoga may further benefit these populations or individuals with these health conditions:
- Women undergoing breast cancer treatment and those recovering from breast cancer
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Weight Maintenance
- Prenatal Depression
- Overall Psychological Well-being
- Heart Failure
Here is what keeps me coming back to my mat 3-5 times a week…
- Mental + physical break in my day
One of the reasons I started practicing yoga so regularly is that I switched gyms last year and the new gym has a location right across the street from my office. I run over to lunchtime yoga as often as I can. It brings me peace + grounds me in the middle of a hectic day. I notice a significant decrease in my afternoon energy and increase in stress on workdays when I don’t take a yoga break.
How often during the day are you truly aware of the now? The onslaught of technology and screens has us living with one foot in the digital world at all times. When I’m on the mat, that space and time is all that matters. Meditation is difficult for me–wrangling my mind is more challenging than any physical pose. Especially in the middle of the work day (sometimes my shavasana=running through a list of things I need to do). Yoga practice is one of the only times I truly practice being present.
- This too shall pass
I love the challenging nature of yoga. Yes, you may get into a pose that is uncomfortable (not so much that you injure yourself, of course), that is OK. It is temporary. This goes along with the Buddhist concept of impermanence. Accept the now. Be present. Experience. Pay attention. Nothing is forever.
The major theme of Whole Green Wellness is to take care of yourself and treat your body like the temple that it is. I feel good about nourishing my body and mind in yoga practice. Twisting + stretching can literally feel like a massage for your internal organs and spine. I always feel like a refreshing, clean burst of energy has been released inside of me when I’m on the mat. No thanks, afternoon coffee, I just came from yoga. Also, who eats junk food after coming from yoga? There is something about yoga that just makes you want to keep being good to yourself!
- Enhanced athletic performance + balance
I love balancing out my strength + cardio training with yoga. It helps to maintain flexibility and work out tight + sore muscles. I’ve also noticed greater strength in my chest and arms since doing yoga regularly (doing chaturanga correctly makes a huge difference). Yoga is also quite humbling. Just because you can squat your body weight doesn’t mean your legs won’t be burning in a crescent lunge! Also, a sub-7 minute mile doesn’t guarantee you won’t be out of breath after 12 vinyasas in a row. One issue I have run into is trying to fit in my lifting splits with a regular yoga practice. For instance, lifting chest + tris or legs in the morning and then doing yoga over lunch is pretty awful. I feel weak + off-balance with fatigued muscles. Appropriately planning workouts throughout the week may take some extra attention. I find that many yogis focus mainly on yoga + running, so incorporating lifting splits in on top of that can be challenging. I prefer doing cardio + yoga on the same days, and then lifting on separate days. Why aren’t there more days in the week?
You don’t have to be a paying member of a gym or yoga studio to practice yoga. Many people prefer to practice on their own. There are loads of free and for-purchase sequences + videos online. Be sure to find sequences that are at an appropriate level for your experience–beginner, moderate, experienced, etc.