Those of us who have taken a yoga class - even if it was only once! - understand how glorious your body feels as you roll up your mat. You feel open. Flexible. Elongated. Strong. Confident. Slim. Why is this? What exactly is it about these simple sequences of postures that our bodies love so dearly?
1. You are focusing all of your attention on your body. Your thoughts directly affect your physical body. Have you ever had a nervous stomach? Or have you gotten a headache from thinking about something that troubles you? If you focus all of your energy on self-hate and criticisms, odds are you'll notice more weight added to the places you've been bashing. Why? When we send thoughts to a certain area of our body, it becomes more active and aware. If the thoughts are negative, your body will think it's under attack, and build up resistance in the form of padding and fat deposits. Also, it's been proven that you burn more calories and build more muscle mass when you're actually thinking about exercising. During yoga, you're prompted by your instructor to focus your attention on a specific muscle. You explore how this feels, and immerse yourself in the stretch and uncomfortable sensations that you might be experiencing. You may not realize it, but you're giving your body loads of positive vibes, which will transform into lean muscles and happy organs. You love yourself when you're on the mat - it simply comes naturally.
2. You're restoring movement and function to the parts of your body that are often forgotten. Your spine, specifically. When you're bending backwards into Camel or pushing down into Downward Facing Dog, you are doing wonders for your back. Your spine is flexible. It bends, arches, twists, and supports. It keeps you standing all day. And yet, it's the least of our worries. We hunch over a computer without a second thought, only to wonder later why we're in so much pain. When you pay attention to your spine and give it the love it deserves, your entire body will benefit immensely. Your blood flow will increase. You will be able to walk farther, run faster, stretch wider. We also pay extra attention to our little extremities - our feet, fingers, eyes, and toes. Yoga teaches you to thank these parts, for life would be a challenge without them. Your entire body as a whole will function so much smoother when it's given those positive, yoga vibes.
3. Because when you're mindful on the mat, you're mindful of your plate. I like to say that yoga is a lifestyle. The mindfulness that you express on the mat - that attention to every detail and movement - extends far beyond the studio or gym. You bring it with you wherever you go! Believe it or not, yoga has prompted many people to transform their diets and add in more whole foods. When you cook yourself dinner or order something at a restaurant, you'll find yourself choosing your meals with mindfulness. You'll opt for more veggies, and less processed snacks. You'll chew slowly, taste fully, and embrace the yoga of eating! To your body, this is a blessing. To your mind, this is comfort.
So go experience the bliss of yoga! Give a simple gift to yourself. Reach up into Tadasana, and squat low into Utkatasana. Your body will love it.
image via JenniferKries.com