This is a guest post by Dan Chabert
It’s perhaps a bit trite to say, but as we are about to turn over another year and continue to advance into the twenty-first century, life sure is busy, hectic, and for many of us, chaotic. I don’t think I know a single person who is continually bored and looking for things to occupy her time; instead, I know so many people who are the opposite — wishing they had a 25th hour in every day; wanting to figure out how to adopt as many “life hacks” as possible so they can maximize every minute, of every hour, of their day, and so on. Suffice it to say, then, that most people these days feel like they can’t catch a break in their lives, and it’s unsurprising, then, that so many people find themselves in ill health year after year because if they don’t have the time to attend to all the necessities in their lives, how will they ever find the time to take care of themselves?!
As I’ve gotten older, gotten married, and had children, I’ve eventually come to realize that while there are assuredly many important things out there in my life, my own health and well-being should absolutely be included among them. More to the point: I must be the one, personally, who makes tending to my health and well-being as important as anything else I ascribe value to. Perhaps you can relate. Figuring out how to make time for myself each day to exercise, to eat healthily, and to get myself into a positive state of mind can be taxing, of course, but doing so has enriched my life wholeheartedly, and now, I can’t imagine otherwise.
Taking care of your own personal and mental health and well-being can be tough, particularly if you have a lot of other competing interests and priorities to tend to, but doing so is critical. There are so many ways that you can exercise each day, and particularly pertinent for our community, if you want to take a step back and really do something for your mental health, incorporating yoga into your life can have an enormous impact. The thousands-year-old activity has sustained the test of time for a reason.
There are so many different types of yoga, with some practices that are great for beginners and others that only advanced practitioners should attempt, but there’s a type out there for everyone; just like with any other form of exercise, it’s a matter of finding the best “fit” and the one that you’ll likely stick to over the long haul. Regularly incorporating yoga into your exercise routine (and life!) will confer a number of benefits, too, including:
Helping you slow down. Remember all the banter (above) about how hurried our lives are? Taking time each day for a little meditative yoga will help you slow down, literally or metaphorically catch your breath, and teach you to simply be present in each moment of your life. So many of us are guilty of multi-tasking, which deceives us into thinking that we are capable of being more productive than we actually can be, and tons of recent research has confirmed that multi-tasking is actually less productive and perhaps even detrimental. Regularly practicing yoga can help teach you to slow down, truly focus on the task at hand or the moment you’re in, and over the long term, help quiet the incessant internal noise that so many of us contend with in our lives, as we rush to complete everything on our never-ending to-do lists each day. You may find that early in your practice it’s really tough to just “be,” but like with any other skill, it’s one that you’ll be able to cultivate in time.
Teaching you to meditate and relax. Much like helping you learn to slow down, yoga can also help you learn to meditate and relax and therefore lessen (or perhaps mitigate) your daily stress. Personally, I sometimes have trouble falling asleep at night because I feel like I can’t turn my brain “off,” and I’m sure many of you can relate to this dilemma. Practicing yoga, and learning how to meditate and relax as part of your routine, can be excellent additions to your everyday life because these skills are ones that you’ll be able to transfer to other non-yoga contexts (such as when you’re trying to fall asleep at night or when you’re dealing with a tough personal or career situation that’s unnecessarily stressing you out). As parents, we often tell our kids to relax when they’re in the throes of a temper tantrum, but we, adults, would also stand to benefit from relaxing from time to time, particularly when we’re about to lose our cool. A regular meditative yoga practice can help you manage your feelings when the going gets tough and you feel like you’re on edge.
Balancing out your fitness routine. If you regularly exercise, you probably have some muscular tightness or imbalances conferred by your exercise of choice or might even suffer from a sport-related injury. Incorporating yoga into your fitness routine can help you balance out these muscular issues and also help you strengthen your muscles and bones in ways that your sport of choice doesn’t do (or doesn’t do enough). Yoga is incredibly useful for runners and triathletes, in particular, and there are many sports-specific yoga offerings available all over the world, in yoga studios, or even online or on DVDs. Routinely exercising in the same way — such as always running — can be rough on your body, especially if you’re only moving in one plane of motion, so yoga can help both undo some of the damage while, in the process, strengthen the rest of your body.
As you advance in your yoga practice, you may find that yoga gives you additional non-quantifiable benefits, too, such as increased energy, improved digestion, better sleep, a more positive demeanor, greater muscular flexibility and range of motion, or simply that you feel like you’re a “better person.” Fortunately, yoga doesn’t inherently require much gear or special equipment, and more often than not, it’s something that you can do literally anywhere you go. Many yoga practitioners claim that their practice has changed their life in untold ways and ultimately even become inspired to teach yoga to others. However you use yoga in your life, you’ll find that it gives you some sense of relief, comfort, and pleasure, and I have no doubt that you’ll want to continue to practice for the foreseeable future. Thousands of years of history can’t be wrong.
Author’s Bio: Dan Chabert