As yoga becomes increasingly popular in New York City and around the world, those who don't practice are starting to wonder what the hype is all about. To an onlooker, it might seem that yoga involves strapping a colorful mat to your back, and heading to a mystical world of alluring yoga pants and perfect postures. At
New York Yoga
, we pride ourselves in creating a teaching environment that is accessible for every student. We want you to know the potential benefits so you can incorporate them into your routine in a way that makes sense for you.
1. An Improved Mood
During the course of your day, there is bound to be something that has the potential to worsen your mood. Rather than harboring feelings of anger, hurt, or resentment, yoga allows you to let go of anything negative you are holding on to in order to make room for positive thoughts and actions.
There are so many aspects of yoga that can make you feel good. A thoughtful Dharma talk can make you feel understood and connected. A creative sequence can make you feel engaged and energized. There is also nothing quite like the feeling of holding a difficult pose longer than you think you can, only to release into a gentle Forward Fold (Uttanasana) or Child's Pose (Balasana). Anyone who practices yoga can attest that it is nearly impossible not to feel better leaving yoga than you did coming in.
2. More Time For Yourself
As a New Yorker, you most likely live a fast-paced lifestyle in which you are constantly rushing to the train or your next responsibility. You probably tell yourself you don't have enough hours in the day and don't take breaks because you are convinced that you are just too busy. However, do you ever notice that when you don't take a break you are usually less productive? That's where yoga comes in.
Yes yoga takes time, but more importantly, it gives time. Yoga allows you to focus on your postures and breathing, and to quiet your restless mind. Consider that one of your daily jobs is making time to take care of yourself. Remember that if you leave yoga in a positive head-space, you are better equipped to take on daily tasks and have more endurance to get through the day.
3. Strength and Toning
When you think of yoga, you might immediately think of flexibility and stretching. While yoga does stretch everything from your hips to your hamstrings, yoga also does so much more for the body than you might think. Poses such as a Plank Pose help you to strengthen your arms and abdominals. Bakasana (Crow Pose) and Boat Pose (Navasana) help you to engage your core. In addition to be an aerobic exercise, yoga lets you use your body as a weight and a Vinyasa Flow class can give you the fast-pace of cardiovascular exercise.
4. Deeper Sleep
Make no mistake, yoga can and very often will make you work you hard. However, it also allows you to get into a more relaxed state, especially after Corpse Pose (Svasana) where you get to soak up all the benefits of your practice. Yoga brings you a more positive perspective to life situations, and helps to eliminate tension, anxiety, and any other feelings that can keep you up at night. Yoga also facilitates deep breathing, that aids oxygen flow throughout the body which will help your overall sleep quality.
If you have trouble sleeping, try meditating before bed. Try not to make any attachments to the idea of meditation. This can simply be 5 minutes of you closing your eyes and tuning out the events of your day so you can have a more undisturbed sleep. Doesn't seem so hard, right?
5. Relief from Stress and Anxiety
We wreak havoc on the nervous system daily. Luckily, yoga helps us control our nervous system through beneficial postures, breathing, and meditation. Yoga reduces the heart rate and helps lower blood pressure. It also increases heart rate variability and our ability to respond to stress more calmly. If you are ever feeling angry or agitated, you will likely find that if you wait to respond until after a yoga class, you will have a much more calm and realistic approach than you did initially.
The next time you are anxious, try coming into a gentle forward, keeping the feet a bit wider than hip distance, softening the knees when necessary, and grabbing for opposite elbows in Ragdoll Position. Press into the heels for grounding and allow this to let your head and arms to sink closer to earth.
6. Improved Balance
Yoga helps the body by allowing you do the opposite of what you do all day. For example, we spread the fingers wide in Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Vrikshasana), which counters the typing and texting we do all day. We are constantly on our feet, so inversions like Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) or Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana) are a wonderful way to increase the blood flow to the brain, giving it more oxygen and nutrients.
In addition to finding physical balance in our bodies, we learn to eliminate people and experiences from our lives that aren't serving us. We pay attention to patterns by being aware of our Dosha, or mind and body type, and finding ways to balance ourselves based on our usual tendencies.
Many people also breathe in a shallow way that does not serve them. Yoga teaches us to breath more deeply and fully on the inhale and release tension and anything negative we are holding on to on the exhale.
We can have unrealistic expectations about where we should be in our lives and often compare ourselves to others. The best yoga teachers pride themselves on offering modifications so you can meet poses where you are.
In yoga, you practice Satiya, or truth, which includes living your truth. For instance, if stacking your legs in Side Plank (Vasisthasana) is difficult for you, you can release your lower knee to the ground and form a kickstand in Stargazer Pose. You are still getting all the same benefits no matter the variation, but more importantly, you're looking out for your own body's needs. This means being exactly where you are without self-judgement or concern about criticism from others.
8. Mind-Body Connection
Yoga means union, or the connection between mind and body. Breathing properly brings more oxygen to the blood and brain, which allows your mind to be both Steady (Sthura) and Still (Sukha). During seated meditation, it is often suggested that students take a steady and comfortable seat, as stillness in the body can equate to stillness in the mind.
While it can be very difficult to shut off the mind completely, focusing on the physical poses and the breath helps to prevent us from allowing our mind to wander. When Breathing (Pranayama) and Asana (Physical Poses) are combined, the mind and body are purified. When our mind is pure, it is not clouded by negative thoughts but instead lets us propel ourselves into positive action.
9. Sense of Accomplishment
The best yoga classes are accessible for all skill levels, and give you the opportunity to gradually build upon your practice and get deeper into your poses. You do this by going through Krama or stages of the pose to work your way up to more advanced variations.
In addition to watching yourself improve physically, you also gradually become more calm and focused and can let go unhealthy attachments and expectations about what your yoga practice should look like. Witnessing a transformation in your body and mind will allow you to leave your yoga class feeling fulfilled.
10. Less Pain and Tension
When you are experiencing physical pain, it can be extremely debilitating. Yoga has been proven to help body ailments such as arthritis, back pain, and other physical conditions. When our bodies feel good and we are able to be active, we feel better.
Yoga also eases emotional pain as we focus on positive thoughts and intentions. It also allows us to escape anything negative we might be going through in our personal lives, and puts things in perspective as we recognize all that we can accomplish through focus and dedication in our practice.
Ready to commit to you?! Email us at Class@NewYorkYoga.com and we'll help you pick the very best membership to meet your needs. Or call York at 212-717-9642, Hot at 212-439-9642
Written by teacher Alex Samet! Catch Alex's classes at New York Yoga York + Hot!