by Nina Lankin
My first exposure to yoga was in high school as a warm up for a theater class. For a long while after, I continued to see yoga simply as a form of exercise. A form of exercise that stretched and strengthened my whole body, and could be done anywhere. It was later when I learned meditation techniques and philosophy that I was able to internalize and incorporate yoga into my everyday life, as well as find deeper benefit to the physical practice. The positive impact that yoga has had on my life compelled me to want to share it with others. Last month I completed a 200-Hour Teacher Training with YogaWorks. It was a challenging and transforming experience that helped deepen and solidify my yoga practice.
So what exactly has yoga done for me?
Balances other physical activities
I used to lift weights three times a week, and I liked to just get in and get out. Stretching wasn’t a part of my routine. The weekly yoga class I took at the time helped balance the effects of heavy weight lifting.
Clears out the mind
I have a mind that stays pretty busy, jumping from one thought to the next, and I’ve been known to be an expert multi-tasker. In a physical yoga practice, I’m forced to focus my attention on my body and breath, drawing my attention away from the usually constant mind chatter. By the end of a good session I am relaxed and have a clear(er) mind.
I’ve always been a sloucher. This has not been helped by a lifestyle that includes cycling and hours of desk work. Once I started a more serious physical yoga practice I learned how to hold my body in proper alignment, and began the process of retraining the muscles to hold me there. Continuous practice has also given me body awareness that helps me catch myself when I slouch at my desk. What used to be fairly constant upper back and neck pain is now only an occasional nuisance. While years ago I argued with a voice teacher that my anterior pelvic tilt was something I couldn’t fix, it is now quick and easy for me to stand with neutral alignment.
Fosters patience, compassion and calm
And lastly, the study of yoga philosophy has taught me patience, compassion, and control over my reactions. This allows me a greater level of calm in the face of challenging situations, other people, and my own insecurities.
What began for me as physical exercise became a journey towards a whole new outlook on life. The best thing about yoga is that it is an individualized practice. Many will love it as a method to increase mobility, flexibility, and strength, others will seek out the mental calm it fosters, and some will find it as a first step towards a path to greater happiness in all aspects of life. I am grateful for the opportunity to help others find what yoga can do for them.