Why We Need Yoga to Calm the Mind and Reduce Stress
If you’re not a person who does yoga, stay with me and hear me out, Please! When I first started doing yoga it was just for exercise, I needed to get some stretching in while I was training for a marathon and lifted weights and did cardio. Yoga was WAY harder than I thought it would be and I only did it while training for the marathon and then went back to my gym routine, leaving yoga thinking it was good stretching exercises.
After an ugly breakup I found myself at the lowest point of my life. I didn’t like who I was, I let someone treat me with disrespect and I no longer knew who I was, where I was going, what I was doing. I walked away from my life, and my friends. I was circling the vortex of a very large black hole and I wasn’t going to be able to hang on much longer.
For some reason, I wanted to try hot yoga. Something kept calling me back to it, I probably looked at the website 20 times before I finally got up enough nerve to go to a class. It was terrifying, horrible, humbling and the most difficult 90 minutes, but I knew I needed to go back and do it again.
I was going to therapy at the time and I told my therapist that I was going to yoga. She said there has been research that shows yoga helps with depression and she said I need to continue to go to yoga or she will have to prescribe me anti-depressants. WHAT?! I’m depressed?
So, I went to yoga. I kept going and have never looked back. I wasn’t sure what was happening. I just knew I felt better, not just physically, but mentally. There was something about moving my body into shapes that felt totally foreign, not sure what I was doing, and straining to keep up with the other yogis (which isn’t good for you by the way).
The first time I heard a yoga instructor say, “Take what you’re feeling while on your mat into the world.” I didn’t know what the H. E. double hockey sticks she was talking about! But I noticed a shift inside me. I was nicer to people. I was still working as a police officer, so this was a strange feeling and I found myself a little more empathetic towards people. I wasn’t as quick to get upset and my stress level was reduced. I just knew I was feeling better, physically and mentally.
There are hundreds of studies that show how yoga:
Calms the mind
Helps with recovery from substance abuse
Helps the body heal faster from disease
Improves cognitive function
When was the last time you did something that there were no distractions? No music, conversation, television, just you moving your body in a way that requires your full attention, you listening to your breath, turning your thoughts inward and calming that monkey mind that never seems to stop chattering.
Now maybe yoga isn’t your “thang”, maybe it’s running, hiking, cycling, crossfit, knitting, doing aerial yoga while hanging from a tree, I don’t know, but can you do it without the distractions? Try it, no music, ear buds blasting Jay Z, talking, just you doing what you do, listening to your breath, stop the chatter in your head, and just do it, immerse yourself in it.
Hopefully if you’ve never tried a yoga class, you will. But give it time. You might not like your first or your fifth yoga class, but maybe it’s that tenth class that you can notice your body moving, it feels good, you notice your breath, long and smooth, and you can actually relax in Svanasana (Corpse Pose) and you’re not thinking about what’s next, you’re in that moment.
Is there something you do that reduces your stress, helps you connect with your inner voice, forces you to slow down and you can feel that you’re in the moment. If not, give yoga a try.