It is impossible to not feel more peaceful after a sincere yoga practice, after all its very principles are built on integrating all the aspects of life and its focus is on bringing our true, wise, more compassionate sense of selves out and into the world. Sadly, there are a lot of places now that forget the yogic roots and associate the practice solely with physical appearance. My yoga body is a great benefit, but it is only a tip of the iceberg, so I believe that people whose sole desire is to acquire a yoga body of their own are missing out on the rest of the benefits that it provides. Of course, some of the deeper benefits of yoga will still be felt even if they are not what the person strives for. Many report a sense of calm after a workout because yoga is a natural stress relief tool.
When I started to practice yoga eleven years ago, I wanted to condition my body and to improve my balance and flexibility. Stress relief was not something that I have expected, but I noticed that even on the most stressful of days I felt anxiety relief practically few minutes into a workout. It worked faster than running! With time I came to expect that serenity from yoga without knowing much about its roots. I have continuously done yoga, mixing it with the other workout routines, instinctively seeking it on days when I needed to find my inner center. In the beginning of this year I wasn’t feeling that well. Going for a run was the last thing on my mind, some days I struggled to get off the couch after a minor activity around the house. I felt drowsy from the lack of energy and gentle beginner yoga seemed all I could manage at a time.
After February and my switch to raw food vegetarian and then vegan lifestyle, I regained all my energy and then some. However, most of the days, I choose yoga over all other possible forms of exercise. I don’t need to work hard to burn fat anymore as my body naturally maintains its ultimate weight. I work out more days a week than I previously had because I have more energy to do so, but yoga doesn’t feel like a tedious task. It has become a part of my daily routine and an integral part of my life. A reach for a yoga mat first thing in the morning is like taking a deep breath and doing sun salutations is my saying hello to the world. I have awoken from sleep. I am here with the start of a new day. I am devoted to creating peace on my yoga mat and taking it everywhere I go.
For me, starting the day with yogic sun salutations is like turning the inner light on and aligning all the aspects of my life with each other. While my body is working physically, stretching, holding poses, finding balance, the mind unwraps itself of the unnecessary thoughts that often obstruct clarity. The spirit seems to grow stronger as the warm joyful energy smoothly flows through the body, penetrating every cell and nourishing it with its healing power. I feel peace and love toward the universe. I am at home within my body. The flow of action and relaxation is life itself and long after I am done with my morning yoga I will be synched with that rhythm, breathing deeply, calmly, inherent integrity preserved and maintained by the strong sense of self throughout the daily activities.
Yoga is my favorite form of exercise for a variety of reasons. It conditions the body and increases its strength and flexibility. It works from the inside out, activating every possible muscle there is. Simultaneously with toning, it promotes detoxification. Cleansing the body of toxins is as important as strength, even more so because the body will always have some harmful elements that will need to be eliminated. These toxins are either a product of metabolism or have entered our bodies with food, air or through the skin. If not expelled, they will cause havoc in the body (as well as mind and spirit).
Balancing poses help me find my center, literally and figuratively speaking. Even on one foot with limbs spread like a bird, leaning forward until the balance is achieved I feel firmly planted on the ground. And then, through the day that balance remains. If something sways it, I just need to breathe deep and focus, as if entering a balancing pose. Sometimes, if my immediate environment permits, I actually do a tree pose and reap deeper balancing benefits. I am reminded that life is all about the balance and an integration of numerous aspects that cannot exist without each other. No matter what happens to disturb it, I have the power to find my center again.
In the past, I used to focus on jogging and aerobics. My primary goals were physical fitness and stress relief. I still occasionally enjoy these physical activities, but now my focus is on efficiently covering all of my needs with one workout instead of doing one for the cardio and fat loss, one for toning and one for stretching. Also, I don’t miss my trips to the chiropractor because of the knee aches that were caused by too much running. Yoga is much gentler on the body. I can do it every single day, whereas with aerobics and even more so with running, I had to take frequent breaks as the knee pain would return after three or more days of strenuous exercise.
I read somewhere that walking on the ground barefoot has grounding and energizing effect. No wonder I always preferred to walk barefoot as a child, and even as adult, I love the way the earth feels under my feet. I especially enjoy walking barefoot on the grass - I get the tickling sensation that spreads from my feet upward into the rest of me, revitalizing me from my toes to the crown of my head. In a sense, I feel like a blossoming tree with moveable roots planted deep in the ground. I am grounded and sturdy, but not restricted in any sense. That’s another reason why yoga appeals to me - I get to practice barefoot! The vibrations of the earth and my feet are merged while I am on my yoga mat saluting the sun and the earth, flowing like water and opening my heart in the infinite space of the air to life and its endless potential for love.