Why Yoga Centers Me Each Morning


Laura183.JPG

Consider your first thought after the alarm clock rings. Are you thinking about your agenda for the day? Concerned whether you’ll make it to work on time? Wishing you could simply go back to sleep? Sometimes, those thoughts cross my mind as well. But usually, my first thought before my feet touch the floor is the experience that awaits me on the mat.  

I was first introduced to yoga by my mother back in high school, but I didn’t develop a consistent practice until after college – when I started to feel burnt out from a lack of balance. After I began to cultivate a daily practice, I noticed a new sense of inner strength and resilience in myself, both mentally and physically. The days where I allowed external events to dictate my emotional state began to dwindle, and the moments where stress paralyzed my ability to act intuitively evaporated.

And the benefits didn’t end there. The deeper my yoga practice, the more in-tune I felt with my mental, physical, and spiritual being. A new world was opening up before me – one founded in gratitude, self-compassion, and continuous personal growth. And as my self-perception began to shift – and my view of the world around me – I became intensely aware of the benefits that were precipitating the change.

 

1.     Improve mental focus and reduce stress-induced anxiety.

Perhaps the most transformative benefit I’ve experienced from my yoga practice is a significant reduction in stress-induced anxiety – which has immensely improved my mental focus. As I learned to manage my energy through discovering what centers and ignites me, I quickly noticed the immediate grounding effects of a twenty-two-minute hatha vinyasa flow each morning.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one. According to one study, subjects that participated in 10 weeks of hatha yoga experienced lower levels of stress, anxiety, and an improved overall quality of life. In fact, researchers found that yoga was even more beneficial than simply “relaxing” in positively impacting mental health. And as we continue to understand the importance of mental health and overall well-being, I have no doubt research will continue to support practices that strengthen our mind-body connection.

 

2.     Enhance balance and breathing.

Thanks to an increased focus on mindfulness as a society, we’re beginning to better understand the innate connection between breath and states of mind. In fact, researchers at Stanford School of Medicine identified a group of neurons in the brainstem “linking respiration to relaxation, attention, excitement, and anxiety.” Pranayama, or controlling the breath, is an integral component of yogic techniques– which explains the intrinsic relaxation effects of regular yoga practice. As I’ve grown in my own personal practice, I have experienced firsthand these calming effects, helping me become more resilient in both my personal and professional lives.

Just as breathwork enhances mental well-being, the asanas, or physical postures, in yoga improve flexibility and balance. As someone who was previously unable to touch her toes – either sitting or standing – I can personally attest to the vast improvements yoga has initiated within my overall fitness, both on and off the mat.

 

3.     Alleviate migraines and reduce inflammation.

Research has also helped us recognize the relationship of chronic inflammation to many common diseases. Those who practice yoga regularly were found to have reduced inflammatory markers, suggesting that the long-term benefits may protect against diseases caused by inflammation. And in an age where health and wellness trends tend to change with the seasons, a tried-and-true practice with lasting impacts is certainly worth exploring for yourself.

Likewise, as a chronic migraine sufferer, I did not fully believe in the healing power of yoga until I experienced the benefits firsthand. In alignment with results determined through scientific studies, my migraines now occur far less frequently and are significantly less intense. If you’ve ever experienced a debilitating migraine headache yourself, you’ll know how miraculous this simple daily practice truly is – especially if it means less incapacitation and more vibrant living.

 

The Takeaway

Regular yoga practice has innumerable benefits, ranging from improved mental focus and reduced anxiety, to enhanced balance and breathing. Yoga may also contribute to reduced inflammation and offer much-needed relief for chronic migraine sufferers.

Beyond these physical and mental benefits, my daily yoga practice has elevated my sense of purpose and intensified my ability to experience gratitude. I feel empathy and compassion more deeply – not only for others, but for myself. I recognize that I am continually growing, pursuing progress instead of perfection. And when the busyness of life threatens to derail me from my path of peace, I am more apt to remain calm. Because my yoga practice continues to enrich my physical and mental resilience, enabling me to step confidently and humbly into the journey before me each day.

 

Interested in developing a regular yoga practice, but not sure how to start? Check out opportunities to practice with me!

Laura Hanson