How daily yoga practice has had an effect on my wellbeing so far
General thoughts on regular and consistent personal practice:
After many months of consistent personal practice I have begun to understand why a slow but steady approach can be more beneficial in the long run. For decades I had listened to teachers from an array of subjects (from breathing/speech coaches to dance and piano teachers to name a few) that shorter periods of practice done regularly will yield greater benefits. It is a commonly repeated mantra I listened to but never really took in the message until I ACTUALLY DID IT!
It is a whole different story to experience how one’s mind set gradually shifts from procrastination due to inner resistance to the light bulb moment when one feels free of the inner voice of self-sabotage. That freedom allows real enjoyment of the practice without any inhibiting notion of duty. It is indeed about coming home to your own self, your inner sanctuary and to experience on a cellular level that ultimate peace lies within. The understanding that distracting our minds by consuming (film, TV, watching clips on you tube, retail therapy, recreational drugs, etc.) is not a way to relax but the opposite. It keeps us in a state of agitation and restlessness yet craving more, keeping us in a perpetual vicious cycle.
I experienced this first hand very recently when I skipped my evening yoga practice and instead binge watched 3 episodes of a TV series before going to bed. It didn’t really come as a surprise that it was one of the worst night’s sleeps I had had in a long time. On the other hand, going back to my evening yoga practice the next evening led to a much more peaceful and restful sleep again.
Beneficial effects of my daily personal practice:
- Improvement of physical fitness
- A calming effect on my mind
- Building confidence and self-esteem
- A deeper understanding of self-care and honouring the practice
1. Improvement of physical fitness/strength
The lasting effects with the gradual training approach are: I feel stronger, have more stamina to hold postures, my hips and knees are more open and due to a greater sense of ease when doing many postures now I feel I can fine-tune my practice, paying greater attention to the subtleties of postures.
I had days feeling quite sore, especially after busy training days like the workshop in London and my alignment day. The tightness in my neck has eased and I find myself more relaxed in my upper back and shoulder area. I noticed that tension I usually held in one specific area not only comes and goes but shifts to other places in my body. I now find it challenging to be in Downward Dog, which never used to bother me, but am now feeling a strain in the upper arm muscles.
2. A calming effect on my mind
I find relief of anxiety and negative thought patterns in doing personal practice. I manage to literally press the reset button 3 times a day.
I seem to be calmer and worry less during the day (on and off the mat). I do not get hung up on things, outcomes of situations and relationships anymore.
I find myself able to move on faster to the things that lie ahead if something doesn’t work out. It is a lovely feeling of freedom that comes with the realisation that I no longer depend so much on other peoples’ approval and recognition.
3. Building confidence and self-esteem
By practising daily, I find out what works for me and what doesn’t. What postures and flows resonate with me and how I can tap into the vast ocean of accessible resources on the internet gives me a feeling of connection and abundance.
These experiences underpin my teaching, too. I find myself using things I picked up from resources and I have the confidence to immediately build bits and pieces into my lessons. Through my personal journey regarding yoga practice I can offer first hand experience and understanding when talking about inner resistance and commitment. I am not a yoga teacher who is so far ahead that I cannot feel and identify with my students when they say they struggle with even committing to 1 class a week. I know where they are coming from. At the same time, yoga helps me to be more understanding and patient of peoples’ struggles. I realise that to a very large extent it is their personal circumstances and issues that prevent them from coming to my classes. They are not a reflection on my person or my teaching but rather show that these people are not ready for their personal yoga journey.
4. A deeper understanding of self-care and honouring the self and the practice
By overcoming the inner resistance and showing up on the mat ANYWAY, despite all the possible excuses I finally understood the real meaning of commitment. There are many excuses, as we know, so I’m just going to quote a few:
To tired/sore to practice (yoga refreshes and can soothe sore muscles by gently stretching them)
In too much pain to practice (Yoga relieves pain and gentle stretching again can have healing effects)
I feel too down / sad to practice (especially important to come to practice as it lifts one’s spirits and the community of the class (even online) makes one feel less alone)
I am too angry / frustrated (practice will soothe and calm the agitated mind and in a more vigorous flow one can channel anger so well by incorporating the breath, thus enabling release).
I cannot stress enough that feeling/ experiencing physically how regular practice changed my awareness is completely different from knowing “it is good for me” on an analytical level. That has been the real eye opener! Together with the previously mentioned positive effects on my wellbeing, the sense of achievement by sticking to my daily practice no matter what has been deeply satisfying. I feel strong (not just physically) and the bouts of anxiety that used to plague me have decreased in frequency. I am convinced they will soon fade to the background and eventually be a thing of the past.
I found the daily practice is now something I wouldn’t miss for the world. It is almost like an inner / mental scaffolding providing me with the most reliable support. I realised what honouring yourself and honouring the practice truly means. It does not mean making a dogma out of it, which then becomes yet another set of rules to obey (and secretly rebel against). Honouring yourself and your practice to me means to love yourself enough to put your wellbeing and your practice first because it comes naturally, and it is no effort. It means there is always time for it, because I am drawn to it like a bee to the flower because it feels good and makes me feel good about EVERYTHING, myself, my body, life, other people, the planet!
This is the greatest and loveliest gift I could have made to myself, real self-care and self-love and ultimately love for everything and every living being. We are all one.