When it comes to yoga, the general assumption is that is predominantly a female exercise. There was something so awkward about being over six feet tall and striking some of those more compromising poses. Trying to encourage me to practice yoga, my wife purchased me a yoga mat and DVD, but after giving it a few tries, I quickly came to the conclusion that yoga was boring. The DVD was put on the shelf and the yoga mat thrown into the back of the closet not given any thought again.
Of course, I knew that I wanted the flexibility and the sense of peace that came along with practicing yoga, so why was it just so boring for me? A little while later, my wife and I became friends with a yoga instructor and she encouraged me to come to her studio and give her class a try. And thanks to her, I quickly came to realize five ways yoga was changing my life.
When I first came to my friend’s yoga studio to try her class, I realized that there what I was missing was the instruction of an instructor. There was something so encouraging to watch a professional person go through to moves. Of course, being the competitive person I am, I wanted to stretch as far as I could to be in the same position as the instructor. However, I quickly realized that my body was just not as flexible as hers and I needed to honor where I was. Instead of straining my muscles to get into position, I focused on my breathing and began working slowly to push my body forward. Over time, I was able to really appreciate when my body was telling me it needed a break, or I needed to work more on a certain position.
As I began practicing yoga more frequently, I started noticing my mind and my body connecting. When I first began practicing yoga, I started to notice my muscles tensing up at night when I would go to bed. This was a natural response to my sciatic nerve pain that I had been suffering from over the past fifteen years or so. But I knew that I was not in pain anymore, so I started practicing a low spine movement. Over time I was able to retrain my mind to not assume that I was in pain and naturally relax as I went to bed.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from yoga is the ability to control my breathing. Yoga is great for restoring one’s breathing thus brining more oxygen to the body and brain. Yoga taught me to take deep breaths while in my yoga class, but I also applied this breathing technique to other athletic endeavors. When I find myself out of breath while on the field, I take a minute to re-center my breathing and help me stay focused during the game. I have also been able to apply this to other areas of my life and use this practice when I find myself getting too overwhelmed.
When it came to sleep, I also learned how to match my breathing rhythm to the rhythm of my body which helped me get a more restful sleep. Over time, my wife noticed that I snored less frequently and I had less congestion in my nose and throat when I woke in the morning. Having the ability to get more restful sleep made me feel more awake and confident throughout the day thus making me more productive.
While I am not an advanced yogi, I have found that yoga has helped me grow in profound ways and for that I am thankful. After each yoga session, I find that I have a sense of calm that I otherwise could not achieve without yoga. Not only is yoga an escape from the chaos of life, it helps you re-center yourself allowing you to feel more in control of your life. I would highly encourage all men (and women) to practice yoga as it brings peace and calmness to your life.
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