A guest post from Bay Mehl, founder of The Mini Meditating Dragon. A blog that hopes to help others find happiness and calm through yoga, minimalism, and meditation. Find her at https://theminimeditatingdragon.wordpress.com/.
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional in any way, I’m just talking about my own experiences and sourcing other people’s research.
We’ve all seen those pictures of yoga practitioners and teachers striking elegant and impressive poses on top of cliffs or under waterfalls. These images are usually accompanied by thoughtful quotes or lines of poetry that drip with encouragement or lofty philosophical thoughts. While I have nothing against positive quotes or poetry, or yoga in general, I think that some of these photos can be intimidating for beginners and even ostracizing to others who may not have the body of an Instagram yogi.
The practice of yoga is much more than doing the splits or achieving the perfect handstand. It’s about being mindful of your body and aware of your thoughts. It’s about aligning your body and your mind together to improve your quality of life.
While those are vague benefits and might sound a little hippie, some of the more concrete benefits can be seen though actual physical, mental, and emotional health improvements.
A lot of people suffering from diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and several forms of arthritis often seek the help, under the advisement of their general doctor, of a yoga teacher. Because yoga is a relatively low impact form of exercise, people of all ages can enjoy the benefits. Also, many of the poses can be modified to accommodate not only skill levels, and the capabilities of each individual body.
For example, my husband, while he is physically fit, has back problems. Stretching his back with yoga poses prevents it from becoming stiff. However, because he is very inflexible and his back isn’t all that strong, he has to modify or he has to ask for help from me or from another yoga teacher. During camel pose, he doesn’t have the abdominal or back strength to keep himself up and to get the stretch he needs.
I simply just need to support his back as he bends. He is slowly building his own strength to hold himself up, but is he still able to get the stretch that brings relief to his spine.
Those diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety are also usually encouraged to practice yoga, mainly because it is a way to bring mindfulness to your body. Mindfulness is focusing your mind on where you are right in that moment. You take in everything around you, the smells, the sounds, the way your body feels against the mat, how you’re breathing, and more. This concentration trains your brain to realize that it’s not in danger at that moment. It helps you feel safe and calm so you can move forward with your life.
I committed myself to a daily yoga practice after I felt an improvement in my depression and my anxiety. While those mental illnesses were still present, I was gaining tools to deal with them more effectively.
Just like medication, exercise, or any other lifestyle change, you won’t see an immediate improvement and it might be hard at first. Your body will probably be sore, your mind may wander during meditation, and your emotional outlook won’t immediately improve. That’s part of life. There are not any miracle pills and there aren’t any quick fixes to anything.
However, if you practice for just 30 minutes three times a week, I know you’ll see some upward movement in your life.
I’d like to thank Mindful Hub for allowing me to guest post on their amazing platform, and I hope to see you on my own blog sometime soon.