By VANESSA HAMPTON
When you think of Yoga, you might believe that, in order to practice it, you have to have pretzel-like flexibility, unshakable balance, and some weird ability to channel your breath into your toes. Admittedly, I used to believe something along these lines. However, I was completely wrong and have come to believe that every person should have yoga in their lives.
My first introduction to yoga was memorable. I had already become a personal trainer and was working on the side for a company that did various types of fitness classes. We were encouraged to take some of the classes from other instructors ourselves, so I hopped in on a yoga class one day. At the time, my workouts consisted of old school weightlifting and machines in the gym. I truly thought of yoga as a little formalized easy stretching and some animal titled poses. I quickly learned, after about 5 minutes into the class, that I was sorely mistaken.
I was pretty proud of what I could leg press in the gym then, but when I had to start holding my body in some triangle shape with my head upside down, my pride was the only thing that kept me from falling into a heap of tears on that mat. It didn’t get any better for my ego from there. Following the instructors prompt to practice gratitude at the end of that class was not a problem. Soaked in sweat, and having exhausted every last muscle in my body, I had never been so grateful in my whole life just to lay down. It was then that I decided I had to learn more about this thing that I had been so very wrong about.
What I learned is that yoga is, and can be, exactly what you need it to be at any time. Since I first brought yoga into my life, it has taken on many different forms. At times, I have included it more intensely and more frequently in my fitness routine to supplement my strength and cardio. At other times, I have used it in a more relaxed manner to simply compliment my workouts with mobility and flexibility. Still at other points, my yoga has served as a mental reset and rest for me during times that I needed that most.
The cool thing about yoga is that, aside from being able to make it what you need it to be at any time, there are also many different types of yoga to appeal to all different types of people. Vinyasa (or flow yoga) emphasizes movement as you flow from one pose to the next. Restorative Yoga is all about rest for the body and the mind as you spend several minutes in each of the simple poses that an instructor decides to focus on. Bikram Yoga, also known as “Hot Yoga”, is a series of 26 postures that is practiced in a heated room with the intention of warming your muscles for stretching and to allow you to sweat out toxins. These are just a few of the styles. Most every yoga practice has at least some (and often times a lot of ) emphasis on breath and meditation.
Yoga teachers are individuals so, even with the same style of yoga, each class will be very different with each unique instructor. Many instructors are schooled in one style of yoga but, like myself, include multiple different styles in their teaching. Each instructor also brings a unique perspective on life and spiritual drive that will determine how students connect with him or her during a class.
Often times, yoga is seen as a ladies only workout. However, my husband said the only time he ever wanted to cry during one of my workouts was when we did yoga. 😊 His muscles were not used to being stretched! So, don’t be fooled. Every single person can benefit from having yoga in their lives. No matter your gender, age, or fitness level, we are all living in a body with muscles and joints and emotional needs. Yoga gets the joints and muscles moving in different ways that helps keep us active, and offers a time that most of us don’t take enough of to check in with our headspace.
The mental and emotional balance that yoga brings is invaluable. Getting to know your body, how it moves, and what it’s telling you. Taking time to rest your mind and leave everything else behind for a few minutes. Learning the benefits of deeper breathing and how it can do everything from release tension in your shoulders to change your perspective in a moment. These are just a few of the internal benefits of a yoga practice.
Bringing yoga into your life is simple and there are many options. You can seek out classes, turn on YouTube, or buy a DVD. You don’t have to have a lot of time or give up the workouts that you already love in order to practice yoga. Supplementing yoga with what you already do for your health is only going to make you better at everything else, and better at life.
How many of us rush through our day, taking care of everything else and everyone else without devoting enough time to our whole body health and our emotional needs? I know I am guilty, and this is why my yoga is so important. Taking time for yoga means taking time to help me be a better me. It allows me to approach my days with fresh eyes and a fresh heart because you can only be your best for everyone else, when you are taking care of yourself.
Vanessa Hampton, owner of Body Balance with V, is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, and CrossFit coach (CrossFit Cool Springs, Brentwood). Follow her on Facebook or Instagram @bodybalancewithv or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.