First-time Yoga, it’s multitude of benefits and getting over first-time anxieties and expectations.
The International Day of Yoga is on Friday 21st June, first celebrated in 2015 following the promotion of the cause by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The (relatively) newfound creation of the day, officialised by the UN General Assembly in 2014, is statement enough that the practice of Yoga has been growing on a global scale in the last decade. Although a traditionally Ancient practice across Asia, the rising global stress levels, as discussed in our article on managing stress, and the ever-growing complexity of modernity has meant the practice has begun to resonate more deeply with Western cultures.
So, what are the benefits?
Yoga has been scientifically proven to benefit physical, mental and emotional regions of ourselves. In short, it can benefit us in our entirety. Such benefits have been recognised by renowned health organisations including the UK’s NHS, who lists ‘A Guide to Yoga’ on their national website, and ‘Yoga as a Practice Tool’ acknowledged by the American Psychological Association.
Some (but not all) physical benefits of Yoga include:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Balancing metabolism
- Cardio and Circulatory health
Some (but not all) mental benefits include:
- Reducing the levels of Cortisol (stress hormone) in our bodies
- Sharpening attention and concentration
- An effective tool for relieving or better managing anxiety
- Promote sleep quality
What happened to emotions?
The emotional benefits are not as scientifically recognised; however, it is scientifically known that we as human beings tend to carry a lot of stress in our hips. Therefore, poses that draw focus to the stretching of your hips may sometimes release pent up emotions. Perhaps the emotional benefits are those most unexpected, and maybe those most long overdue among those of us who continue the battles of everyday life without being able to take a moment to reflect. Yoga combines this with the beauty that is physical and mental fitness/strength.
Alright, I’m in… what now?
Now that we have established the wonderful scientific and deeply personal yet universal benefits of Yoga, I am going to try (and hopefully succeed) in convincing you to let go of those first-time anxieties and expectations that can appear before joining any variation of fitness class. Why am I right for this job you may ask? Because I took my first ever Yoga class a mere two weeks ago in the beautiful Valley of Ulea at Happy Retreats…
After joining the retreat as an intern, the word ‘Yogini’ had been thrown around several times. Each time I heard it, my ears pricked up a little bit higher and my mind began to open to the possibility of becoming one myself. Of course, it is hard not to consider such things when you are surrounded by luscious, Jurassic landscape, where birds sing through the day, pleasantly unaccompanied by roadside traffic or busy city sounds in exchange for the peaceful hum of Yoginis om’ing in tune to the breeze before the golden chime of a bell.
It was time to get involved…
The intimate-style class sizes allowed me to comfortably ease into a practice without much anxiety, but to be truthful with you, I still had some questions… and some doubts. Was I going to be able to do the poses? Is it going to be a lot of sitting and breathing? (The answer to this one is yes, but stay focused) Are people going to judge me or likewise is it going to turn into a flexibility competition? You’ll be relieved to know that by the end of the practice, my questions had eased, and so had I.
My kind and calm-toned teacher, Lee-Ann, who you can see in the photo above, began the class by re-assuring each member that there would be no judgement nor pressure to take any pose that caused discomfort or was not suited to our bodies. With just one opening statement, I immediately shared that sense of calm. Many of my anxieties began to smooth out. She then invited us all to close our eyes and begin to focus on our breath, our bodies, our minds, something that up until that moment, I couldn’t recall the last time I had done so. The class took a steady pace, drawing focus to breathing and low-level stretching. By the end, along with the other guests, I was unable to sit and question the purpose of the practice, preoccupied with our focus on breath, movement and contrasting stillness.
Back to the benefits…
Following the session, I was particularly surprised by the above benefits, as I myself have suffered with back, neck and shoulder problems. The first session convinced me into several more, and after my third practice, I had already begun to feel the alleviated stress in these problem areas. To an even greater surprise was my experienced outburst of tears shortly after the sessions had finished. Although first-time yoga triers, do not fear if your tears manifest during a session… I was comforted by Lee-ann, who informed me it is common to have people shed a few tears, or, fall into a slumber. Not only did this make me feel less silly, it gave me a sense of accomplishment; to be able to let out emotion without fear or anxiety of judgement.
Let’s round this up…
Yoga has become one of my unexpected joys in the last few weeks. Based on the benefits I have not only learnt about but experienced at a personal level, it is something I wish to continue into the future. Some readers may already be familiar with practicing Yoga themselves. For those of whom are not so familiar, perhaps drawn to this article from a growing curiosity, now is your time to go out and experience the wonders of it for yourself.
“Yoga is a light, which once lit will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.” – B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar Yoga
Start your Yoga adventure now at Happy Retreats