In the past I had this on and off again relationship with yoga. I went to yoga events or workshops. I liked the overall idea of it very much, but I never managed to make it into a routine that I would follow in a longer run. To me, yoga was a very frustrating activity. The main reason being that I’m very competitive and do a lot of sports (martial arts and strengths & conditioning). I was used to advance on a steady and regular pace. In yoga I didn’t feel any progress at all. On top of that and from all my previous sport adventures my muscles, especially in the lower back and the back of my legs, were really tight. This made the yoga exercises almost painful and definitely not something worth pursuing.
As I was fully aware that this is exactly the point of yoga, I gave it one last try and I pushed myself to a 30 day yoga challenge. I kept a small diary about it, noting down my unfiltered insights, epiphanies and observations. You can read it here.
During those 30 days I stoically did at least 10 minutes, but often more, yoga a day. Usually I went for it first thing in the morning, before having breakfast. At the beginning it was really hard and I definitely needed to push myself to get out of bed. I kept pushing, as I really wanted to see what happens during the challenge. Once I jumped over that initial hurdle at the beginning, my body and mind had surprisingly quick adjusted to the new addition of my routine and I started to look forward to my morning yoga flows.
After the first week I started to feel the first changes in my body. The daily yoga workouts definitely helped me to be more relaxed but it also helped to stretch out the tension from the previous day. But that’s not the end of it. Over the following weeks several things changed.
The four most dominant benefits to me were and still are:
- Due to all the stretching and muscle work in my yoga practice, my posture got much better. It was never really bad but my spine was much straighter. This had a big impact on my yoga and also at work. I’m sitting in front of a PC and so having good posture is important. In the long run sitting before a screen give me (and you) back problems. Now I sit (and stand!) very straight without even trying.
During the day I fell much less tension in my shoulders and my neck, enabling me to work better and smarter. Also, as it’s easier (i.e. your muscles are used to it) to have a straight spine, I’m also conserving energy, which I can use elsewhere (like more yoga).
- Yoga quickly taught me the importance of breathing. This sounds absurd at first, but most people don’t breathe properly. They tend to have a very flat (not short) breathing rhythm and not deep and full. Yoga taught me to breathe deep and to link my breath with my body movements. This is firstly important for your yoga sessions, as your breathe guides you through your movements. Linking movement and breath is also another way of using your energy wisely. Moving without breath or against it, is hard and tiresome. Moving with your breath is freeing and joyful. That being said linking breath and movements and having a better breathe overall also helps you on a daily basis. I can feel the improved oxygen flow during the rest of the day. Fueling body and soul with life and energy. I can focus better and with much more ease than previously.
- Basically as a consequence of my improved posture and breath I ended up being physically much more relaxed. I can feel this increased relaxation during everything in my day: yoga practice, sports, work, reading a book, you name it. This “side effect” started a positive re-enforcing cycle, somehow like a positive addiction. I wanted to keep this feeling of being so relaxed, so I kept at my yoga routine, which continuously improves posture and breath!
- It didn’t stop there for me. With plenty of tension gone and the improved ease of posture and breathing, my body mobilized better levels of energy. In fact I had levels of energy at my disposal that I’ve never seen before. I did much more (yoga, sport and office work) than ever before, while sleeping the same amount each hour. I felt good, I should have felt extremely tired but I didn’t. On the bad days I was just tired, but then I had 3 training sessions a day (yoga, martial arts and some gym time). You can use that energy for all sort of things of course, I mainly invested it into my yoga, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and strength & conditioning training.
I strongly suggest anyone, but especially the men who are “afraid of yoga”, to incorporate a few minutes of yoga each day into their routine. The benefits are extraordinary. The April yoga challenge was a spontaneous decision, and I’m glad I did it. Has yoga also changed your life?
Stefan is the founder and chief blogger of Tao of Stefan. While being a martial artist, fitness and yoga lover, he’s also an amateur chef trying to delight people with his culinary adventures.
He believes that everything in life needs balance and attempts this on his personal journey. Stefan shares his insights in the fields of healthy lifestyle, fitness and nutrition as coach. Only when life is treated holistically, he believes, true balance and happiness can be achieved. This is his ultimate goal and he hopes that one day this will be his only job: helping everyone to reach their full potential in life.