Thanks to Sheila Olson from FitSheila.com for this great guest post!
Yoga is more than just a series of stretches and postures. This ancient practice from India is a total mind-body workout that will leave you feeling mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually stronger. Additionally, there is a growing group of people who believe yoga is an essential part of any health, fitness, and self-care routine. As yoga instructor, Kate Krumsiek, puts it, this crucial intersection “where healthcare and self-care can join hands to forge a clearer path toward overall integrated health, will be critical going forward.”
Could a yoga practice help athletes recover from workouts and avoid exercise-induced injuries? Could yoga help everyday people reduce stress and bring more self-care into their lives, from the comfort of their own homes? Could it play a role in helping recovering addicts and alcoholics stay sober - for life? The answer to all of these questions is: yes.
Yoga is not just another workout fad or trend. There’s a reason this total-body practice has endured for over 5,000 years. Keeping that in mind, here are just a few ways yoga can balance your overall fitness routine by improving your self-care:
Millions of Americans are living with long-term effects of stress, depression, and anxiety. Yoga is so powerful at reducing stress that it has even been used by mental health professionals to improve their own self-care. This study provides an in-depth explanation of yoga’s benefits to the body and mind. One of the key principles here is that yoga slows the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for our flight-fight-freeze stress response. Through controlled breath, we can ease the bodily systems that are responsible for increasing our pulse, blood pressure, and breathing.
In addition to reducing your stress, yoga as meditation can help you cultivate mindfulness, allowing you to be more compassionate and kinder toward yourself and others. Mindfulness can also help you develop coping skills to handle difficult life events. This is especially true if you combine your yoga practice with meditation and practice consistently, at the same time and place every day. Make your yoga and meditation practice a priority by creating a dedicated space for it in your home. Keeping it simple and clutter free will eliminate distractions and make it easier to focus.
In addition to the benefits listed above, yoga can also serve an important role in any fitness routine. It calms the mind as part of your daily self-care practice. It helps build long, lean muscles. It promotes mental and physical strength. As if those benefits weren’t already enticing enough, yoga stretches can also help you prevent certain types of exercise-induced injuries. This makes yoga an important supplement to any fitness and overall wellness routine, whether you’re just starting out or have been regularly exercising for some time.
Although we use yoga as a physical activity in the Western world, it is so much more than that. Its roots in ancient India are about much more than physical poses; true yoga is a profoundly meaningful spiritual practice. Just like other spiritual practices, the gifts of yoga overflow into our daily lives to permeate the way we view ourselves and the world around us.
In the wise words of spiritual author, Danielle LaPorte, “Love yourself like it’s your job.” Through yoga, you can learn to do that. Yoga postures, your fitness routine, and your overall self-care are all pathways to the same end goal: loving yourself. You can learn to heal old wounds, to soften, to show kindness to yourself and with others. Best of all, you can learn to flourish in your own life and appreciate your own body. That’s a beautiful thing.