When I first started practicing yoga, I went to class solely for the physical benefits. I was preparing for long-distance running and triathlon events and needed something to help lengthen and stretch my muscles after putting so much stress on them during training. While I loved how I felt physically after yoga class, and my overall fitness improved because of the practice, it didn't take long for me to realize I was getting way more than I signed up for.
Years have passed since those first few classes and I can confidently say my life is better today because of yoga. A dedicated yoga practice has changed my life and if you're open to it, it can change yours too. Here are eight ways yoga will transform you from the inside out.
1. Learn the Value of Slowing Down
How many times in the past week, or even the past day, have you said to someone, "Sorry, I'm really busy." It seems we're all running at the speed of light these days, with no sign of slowing down. Society tells us to do more, take more on, and do it all faster. Yoga invites us to take a breath (literally) and slow down. In my experience, we can only find true clarity and peace when we allow ourselves to slow down and take life one moment at a time. It's easier said than done, and no one is perfect at it, but a regular yoga practice can help you learn to appreciate and honor when it's time to be still.
2. Feel More Comfortable and Confident in Your Own Skin
We all know that yoga can help you build strength, tone up, and slim down. If that's what you're looking for, yoga can be a positive, healthy way to get there. But the physical benefits of yoga, for me at least, run deeper than just a fitter physique. The practice of moving through yoga poses can help you connect with your body in a way that's empowering and intentional. Yoga invites us to pay attention to the connection between our mind, body, and spirit. If you accept the invitation, you'll feel stronger, more alive in your own body, and more integrated as a person.
3. Find Courage You Never Knew You Had
Yoga is challenging. Whether you're trying to stand on one foot, balance upside down, or squat in chair pose for what feels like hours, yoga tests you mentally, physically, and emotionally. It takes courage to show up on your mat day after day and push yourself to your edge. For me, recognizing this courage and using it in life off my mat has been extremely powerful. It takes courage to follow your dreams and live your most authentic life. It takes courage to be who you really are. Yoga reminds us that we have what it takes to do just that — that everything we need to live our best already exists within us.
4. Accept Yourself Where You Are
One of the things I love most about yoga is that everything is optional. I have some days on my mat where I feel energized, strong, and ready to accept any challenge that comes my way. Other days, I feel defeated, weak, and empty. It's those days that my yoga practice is the most important, even if it means I'm just resting in child's pose, inhaling and exhaling one breath at a time. Yoga encourages us to accept ourselves where we are — to listen to our bodies, our inner wisdom, and remember that we're human. We all have triumphs, we all have struggles, it's learning to accept all of it as part of life's journey that matters most.
5. Make new friends.
I've met some incredible, lifelong friends and mentors thanks to yoga. When you're new to yoga, it can be intimidating to walk into a room full of people who maybe seem like they're all experts. But if you keep coming back, you realize that everyone is here for basically the same reason — self-discovery, healing, and transformation ... even if they don't realize it yet! If nothing else, the people you meet through yoga will offer you a strong, supportive community that is special and rare. Enjoy that and make the most of it.
How has yoga changed your life? Let me know in the comments. I would love to hear your perspective.