Hey guys. I just wanted to check in with you all and make sure… are you okay?

I feel like this week was unlike any other with all the ways the COVID-19 craziness has affected everyone across the country and around the world. At a time when it seems like that’s all anyone can talk about, it can be so hard to know what to think and how to feel!

What’s important to remember, though, is that whatever you are feeling is valid and that it is especially important in times like these to take a breath, recognize what you need for your own well-being, and know that this too shall pass.

And for me, when I need to take a breath and do something good for myself, I unroll my yoga mat and ease into my yoga practice.

For those who consider themselves yogis or have at least tried it before, it’s no secret that yoga is awesome for so many reasons. As a former athlete who used to run anywhere from 8-12 miles a day, yoga was an amazing supplement to my workouts was often part of my self-care routine in my athletic career!

But for those who’ve never tried it, you might be wondering what the big deal is. Anyone can take a couple seconds to stretch every now and then, right? And what’s up with the whole “Namaste” thing where they talk about the moon and stuff?

Well, today I’m going to list 6 reasons why I believe in yoga SO MUCH to the point where I think everyone should go at least once a week:

1. Yoga teaches you to live in the present: Modern society is practically designed to distract you from anything and everything – from work, from the conversation you’re having, from focusing on taking your Starbucks order, and even from the thing that was already distracting you! While it’s true that yoga is a simple practice that focuses heavily on breathing, the benefits of that simplicity are totally underrated.

So much of our everyday lives is focused on our external surroundings and activities that demand our attention seemingly every second, giving us little to no opportunities to check in with ourselves or on the things and people that matter the most to us! Therefore, while it might seem silly or a waste of time to spend that much time on basic tasks like breathing, stretching, or visualizing things that make us happy, this focus forces us to be in the present – and it usually feels like a pretty good change that motivates us to incorporate more of those moments in more parts of our day.

2. Flexibility: While this one may seem like a no-brainer, how many times have you heard someone say that they can’t do yoga because they’re not flexible? One of the things I love about yoga is that it is a judgment-free zone and more importantly not a competition!

I don’t think I’ve ever been to any yoga class where the instructor didn’t emphasize the importance of going at your own pace and that, while they’ll encourage you to try new things, you should never feel like you have to do something you’re not comfortable with! Part of why yoga is so great is that it helps you in becoming more flexible if that’s one of the goals you’re trying to work on.

I’ll be the first to admit that I, like many other runners, am not very flexible at all and feel like yoga totally makes a difference – even after just one 1-hour class. Every time I have a good session on my mat, I feel areas like my hips and back open up even when I didn’t know they were tense!

3. Yoga is good for your mental health: If you’ve ever read about ways to cope with anxiety and stress, you will more than likely learn about the benefits of meditation – which is the foundation of any yoga practice. While yoga is great for your health overall, regularly incorporating it into your daily schedule can help you take time away from your troubles and clear your mind (and what better time to do that with all this COVID-19 craziness going on??)!

Remember those times as a kid when you were upset about something and your mom told you to simply calm down and take a deep breath? That one deep breath helped calm you in the moment, right?

The same effect takes place when you practice yoga, but on a larger scale – with each class being those moments where you stop and take a deep breath.  Making it a point to focus on your breath for a whole class makes it easier to take more of those smaller moments throughout your day to just breathe and make greater strides in minimizing any stress or anxiety you experience in life.

4. It Boosts Your Confidence: Not only am I not afraid to admit to how NOT flexible I am, I’ll also admit that while I’ve practiced yoga many times before, I am not one of those yogis that can twist themselves into some crazy pose with seemingly no effort! However, the longer I’ve been at it, the more I’m pleasantly surprised with what my body is capable of.

Just this week, Jake and I decided to go together (that’s right – real men do yoga too!) and when it came time to try some headstands, I was certain that I’d probably just sit back in child’s pose as he and the more advanced students flipped themselves upside down with ease. But when I thought “what the heck” and tried to at least hold myself up for a few seconds, I was shocked when I was actually able to hold myself up in the air!

Making small steps in my yoga practice gives me confidence that maybe someday, with enough hours put in, I can be crazy flexible and capable of landing cool poses too – or, at least being able stretch my leg without bending my knee. J

5. Yoga Builds Community: Even though yoga emphasizes self-reflection and individualized growth, I often feel a connection to my classmates as we move through the same flow together – even though I rarely take the time to actually meet them. The yoga community itself is very large, with the conversation around it being about more than yoga itself – yogis love to express the ways in which yoga brings them peace and a safe place they can always come back to!

6. Injury Prevention: Stretching, as I mentioned previously, is crucial in maintaining self care – tight muscles are the perfect recipe for injury, which of course is no help if you’re trying to succeed as an athlete or just try to maintain a consistent workout schedule! Yoga is the perfect way to stretch any tense muscles in your body and work intentionally towards preventing injury. The more flexible your muscles are, the less likely they are to tear!

There are many benefits to practicing yoga and incorporating the valuable life lessons it has to offer into your daily routine. How has yoga impacted your life?

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