More often than not, we consider ourselves to be “relaxing” when we are actually doing somewhat stressful activities. I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite shows to watch on Netflix are action-packed dramas. Though I like to consider watching TV a lazy, winding-down activity, in reality, I probably couldn’t be less relaxed. My mind is running a mile and minute and rather than winding-down, I’m actually adding to my list of things to stress out about. The same can be said for when I’m scrolling through my phone, focusing too much on appearances and the lives of others to truly be present and enjoy “me-time.” If this sound familiar, you may want to consider taking up a new hobby: yoga.
The practice of yoga is one of the only forms of exercise that has been around for centuries. Originating in ancient Indian scripts of the Hindu and Sanskrit literature, yoga started off as much more than just a way to workout. It was about spirituality and meditating, finding calm in the storm of life. This deeper meaning of yoga could very well be the reason it has outlived most other pastimes. Nowadays, yoga seems to have taken on more of a secular mold, but its ability to calm the body and mind remains a common side effect of the practice.
Yoga is not only great for mentality, but also for physical well being. The list of health benefits goes on and on, including improved flexibility, increased muscle strength, improved respiration and energy, balanced metabolism, healthy weight loss, and improved cardiac health. Unlike many other physical activities, yoga is generally easy on the body, even on those who have chronic conditions such as diabetes or arthritis. It is also especially helpful during certain stages of life, like pregnancy.
If these reasons aren’t convincing enough, then let’s take a moment to focus in on the mental benefits of yoga. In general, yoga has helped people develop a better awareness of their own bodies’ capabilities. Practicers of yoga are encouraged to look inward rather than outward, which has been shown to improve body image. Relatedly, yoga makes you more aware of how your body feels, which has been shown to increase mindful eating. This prevents things like overeating, emotional eating, and distracted eating, and strengthens satiety cues.
One of the main ways I’ve found that yoga benefits me is being able to focus on my breath. As a sufferer of severe anxiety, it hasn’t always been easy for me to slow my breathing and just relax. But yoga has helped me improve this skill. When I first tried yoga, I thought of the breathing instructions as more of a suggestion. But the more I tried to keep my breathing in line with what the instructor was saying, the more beneficial it was. Through this, I learned how to control my breathing, and essentially force my body to relax. Now, I use this skill during real-life situations when I’m feeling stressed, and I find it much easier to calm myself down.
Though it is good to keep yourself busy, it is also important to take time to slow down once in a while. Clearly, this is advantageous for both physical and mental health. Yoga may be your opportunity to do some deep meditating, or maybe it’s just a time to quiet your mind for a while. Either way, your body will thank you for it.