I hope everyone had a fun Valentine’s Day weekend and treated yourself to something a little indulgent. This week I want to do a self care challenge that is near to my heart and that I believe in very much — Yoga! Yoga is something that has been consistent in my life for about five years now. It’s something that I return to when I need to feel grounded, or when I feel out of sorts and need to bring attention to my body and mind. The health benefits, both mental and physical, are incredible, and with a consistent yoga practice, you will definitely feel the difference.
So, this week I challenge you to do yoga. Maybe you decide to attend a yoga class at a local studio or gym, maybe you find a video online and do it in the comfort of your own home, or maybe you’re a regular yogi and you roll out your mat and free-style it! I just challenge you to dedicate this small amount of time to paying attention to your breath, stretching and moving your body, and releasing your mind. To me, yoga is the ultimate self care.
If you need more convincing, here are a few benefits of yoga:
- Muscle tone and flexibility
- Maintain a healthy spine and strong bones (twists and weight-bearing exercises)
- Improved blood flow (especially twisting and inversions)
- Drains lymph — moving in and out of various poses encourages the lymphatic system to drain, and in turn boosts immunity and gets rid of toxins
- Lowers cortisol levels — deep, slow, diaphragmatic breathing calms your nervous system like nothing else, moving you from your sympathetic nervous system to your parasympathetic nervous system, and decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure
- Improved sleep — calming the nervous system and releasing tension in your muscles can help you sleep deeper. I personally have found doing hip opening yoga poses combined with deep breathing before bed prepares me for a night of restful sleep.
- Improved digestion and reduced symptoms of IBS
As you can see, yoga is incredible for your overall health and well-being, but it can be challenging at times. When you first start doing yoga, you may experience frustration and feel uncomfortable due to tight muscles that don’t want to bend into certain shapes. You may also feel aggravated or anxious trying to focus on your breath and control it if you’re not used to doing so. The key is to realize that it may not be enjoyable at first, but if you keep returning to your mat, you will start to feel the incredible benefits, both while you’re on your mat and as you go about your day-to-day activities. When I’m having an off day or feeling irritated, tired, or stressed out, I find myself looking forward to getting on my mat later that evening and letting everything melt away as I move my body and take deep cleansing breaths. It is an ultimate act of self care because you are dedicating that time solely to focusing on yourself, creating a space of safety, and releasing everything else going on in your life.
I love the energy of doing yoga in a class setting, but lately I have been doing yoga videos at home by myself because it fits better with my schedule. If you want to try doing yoga at home, I highly recommend you check out Yoga with Adriene — she has tons of free yoga videos on her website and also on her youtube channel, and I think she is such a great instructor. She really helps you release the ideas you have in your head of what yoga is “supposed” to look like and find what works for you personally. She also includes some lighthearted humor, so these videos are great if you don’t want quite as “serious” of yoga videos, but want to keep it light, energetic, and fun. Some of her videos are as quick as 20 minutes for a full body yoga practice, so don’t use the excuse of not having time!
I challenge you to do at least one of these videos, or another yoga class of your choice, this week in order to tune into your breath, give your body some attention, and calm your nervous system. And hopefully you will find yourself wanting to return to your mat again and again!