The impacts of yoga are astounding, especially considering its cliché spot in modern day society. I began taking yoga classes my senior year of high school and have seen firsthand the significant improvement it has made to my mind, spirit and body. Not to mention, yoga is for everybody. There is no body type associated with yoga. Anyone with the want can learn. Yoga isn’t just for the flexible, fit and environmentally aware. The health benefits are available to anyone who is even willing to try the ancient art. My former instructor, who I also considered a personal mentor, once told a discouraged, 18-year-old me this: “it doesn’t matter whether you’re doing the poses right or wrong. Your body will benefit from the focus, principles and undoubtedly valuable exercise.” Now, yoga isn’t for everyone, but you can’t rule it out until you try it. I, however, have found that a lifestyle focused around balance of the mind, spirit, and body benefit me. So while you research your potential lifestyle change, here are some of the numerous benefits of becoming a “yogi.”
1. Exercise and Flexibility Training
In my yoga class in high school, there was a student who was a devoted track and field athlete. He joined the class solely to improve his flexibility. He used to say that he his training in the sport felt useless, as his times wouldn’t improve despite countless hours at the track with his trainer. A coach suggested he begin flexibility exercises and strength training to improve. At the beginning of he class, he was skeptical of the ideals and benefits yoga would have, but as the class progressed, he shared with us how his running skills improved. He thanked the yoga. He said he would do it before meets and, not only was he more flexible, but he felt more focused and disciplined as a result.
On the other end, when I began yoga, I was coming off of an injury from my days as a runner. The injury left me unable to do any form of resistance exercises for over a year. In my depressive state, I gained close to 25 pounds. I felt defeated in the fight to lose it. When I discovered yoga, I was excited to be able to work out without the worry of further injury. And as I progressed, I noticed something I didn’t expect. Within the first few months I had lost nearly all of the weight that I had put on during my hiatus. Yoga not only burns calories, but aids in digestion that can support weight loss and build lean muscle.
2. Teaches Discipline
I’ve always considered myself a disciplined person. I grew up with a single dad (he is a former marine, may if I add) who raised us like soldiers. Strict bedtimes, rooms clean always, work hard, and take pride in everything you do. He put me and my two siblings into sports at a very young age, though, I was the only one who carried athletics into my high school career. I ran cross country and track beginning in sixth grade, played softball up until my sophomore year, and swam. Not to mention we were kept to a plant-based, pescatarian diet. I had no shortness of strict principles in my young life. However, after being hurt I felt defeated. My principles, which I had stuck to my whole life, had failed me. So when I was introduced to yoga, I thought it was going to be easy to pick myself back up. I was wrong. I had yoga classes six days a week, for an hour four days a week, and two hours the other two days. Not to mention being at the gym five days a week (I happened to work at a gym and worked out most days I had shifts). I was dumbfounded at the discipline it took to become better at yoga. In running, the general consensus is that, if you want to progress, all you need to do is run more. With yoga, that isn’t the case. You had to master different positions targeting different muscle groups. It was an exhausting process, but coming out of it, I felt more accomplished than ever. All of the little victories felt so empowering. I always hungered for more.
3. Clarity of the Mind
I know, this one seems cliché, but it is true, nonetheless. As a high school student, I juggled sports, a job, a volunteer position, and not to mention a dad who wanted me home for dinner every night. It was a lot to juggle and led to intense anxiety. And though I do have medication to thank for aiding in my healing process, I can’t rule out the other external factors. During yoga classes you are encouraged to clear your mind. Think of nothing but your breathing counts and making sure you are positioned correctly. To have this outlet, even if only for an hour a day, lead to a lot of soul searching and finding peace within myself. My mind was completely cleared during yoga sessions, and it aided in my recovery immensely.
4. Spiritual Enlightenment
The last point I am making is how yoga aids in spiritual enlightenment. Now, this doesn’t mean that you will become Buddha or a monk. This simply means you will find yourself. Yoga helped me discover so much about myself that I had never noticed before, because I had never been alone meditating with just me and my thoughts. I had never contemplated my existence (it sounds intense, I know, but it’s true). I had never thought of my purpose. As a 17-year-old, my “purpose” was to get as wasted as I could on the weekends and pretend I didn’t have an awful hangover in front of my parents. But as I searched deep within my own mind and subconscious, I found a bigger purpose. One that didn’t involve puking every Sunday morning. Instead it involved science, and my love for children. It involved my want to help and my friendly, approachable demeanor. I found myself through yoga. Which, to me, is astounding.
I have been doing yoga for the past four years now and, just as it saw me through the end of my high school career, it is seeing me through my college career. I plan to continue to pursue yoga and midi ration throughout med school and the rest of my life. I love it when people ask me about it, because there is such pleasure in sharing what has helped make me who I am today and has helped guide where I am going in the future.