~ Food Has Power ~
[Guest Blog Post from Rachel E. Maxwell of This Original Organic Life.]
So I have some pretty exciting news to preface this post. I am officially a certified yoga instructor as of August 17! After 12 weeks of training all weekend every weekend, lots of sweating, soreness, inner and outer transformation, practice teaching, great relationships formed, and outlook changed, I am finished! Look!
If you can't tell, I'm pretty excited. This has been a goal of mine for the last several years, and I feel so at peace with having gone through this process; everything is moving along in my life plan. My plan is to start teaching a couple classes per week around the Twin Cities in the near future.
From here, who knows exactly how things will unfold. Ultimately, I plan to incorporate yoga classes, workshops, and retreats into my future farm, education center, and B&B. I'm open to whatever takes place leading us from here to there in the coming years.
Because I have grown to appreciate this practice so deeply, I want to share some of the many benefits of yoga that I've found to be true in my own life and that I see as being quite universal.
Yoga's Life-Changing Benefits
This is what I have seen in the yoga community I'm a part of: men who practice (and teach!) yoga, people who wear all kinds of different styles of clothing when they practice, a variety of body types, shapes, & sizes, a wide range of ages, different colors, backgrounds, & faith practices. So, get out there and represent!
2.) Stress Reduction
Most of us are stressed - at least a little, maybe a lot. No matter where we're at, we could all use a little stress reduction.
How the Body Handles Stress:
Our nervous system has several branches. One of these is the autonomic nervous system, which has a couple of main parts you've probably heard of: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
When you're really stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol to help cope. If your body is truly under stress, you do need this cortisol to deal with physical injury like broken bones.
The thing is, these two states/two parts of the autonomic nervous system are controlled pretty much automatically, meaning we don't have to think about breathing to breathe, and we don't have to think about going into fight or flight mode (Picture: you turn a corner on a hike and a giant grizzly bear is right there. Your reaction is pretty automatic).
How Yoga Handles Stress:
The breath, however, is something we can control even though it can also keep going without our consciousness.
3.) Pain Relief
It may sound crazy, but doing yoga can actually reduce or eliminate aches and pains! Yoga poses strengthen the muscles, which reduces pain and improves posture.
Research has shown that lack of sleep has negative impacts on brain function, but you don't need research to tell you that - just knowing how you function (or don't) after one sleepless night is enough.
In a recent study, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that subjects who suffered from insomnia and practiced yoga daily for eight weeks experienced improvements in the following: sleep efficiency, total sleep time, total wake time, sleep onset latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep), wake time after sleep onset.
There are certain poses you can do before bed that will take you into a more relaxed state and thus prepare you for sleep. Simple seated poses like twists, child's pose, hamstring stretches, and happy baby - all while focusing on your breath - can help you relax.
Overall Improvement in Sleep:
In general, being active during the day helps you sleep better at night. So no matter what kind of yoga you are practicing, if you do so somewhat regularly, you will begin to see positive results in sleepland.
5.) Self Awareness
We move pretty fast these days. All of us. Okay, at least most of us. There doesn't seem to be much time for ourselves, to really look inward and ask the big questions like:
Yoga gives us not only the time, but the space and the direction to look inward. You don't have to have a deep meditation practice to gain greater self awareness, though this would certainly help.
I don't know about you, but if numbers 1-5 on this list applied to me, I would for sure be happier. Aside from this, a study from Boston University's School of Medicine shows that doing yoga poses helped people raise their levels of the brain chemical GABA by 27% compared with those who simply read quietly. This was after doing just one hour of yoga.
GABA is found in classic anti-anxiety medications and is also what alcohol mimics. So what I'm encouraging here is for you to get drunk on yoga!
7.) Positive Self Image
Yoga enhances self image and acceptance of our bodies, not because it gives us the token "yoga body" featured on the cover of yoga magazines, but because it allows us to understand and appreciate our bodies.
In my own journey with body image and yoga, I have found that I appreciate and love my body so much more than when I exercised simply to look a certain way.
In the more scientific world, research from UC Berkeley finds that women who practiced yoga regularly rated their body satisfaction 20% higher than did those who took aerobics.
Do you do yoga? What are some other benefits you've found from practicing? Share in the comments below!
Rachel is a homesteader, hand-maker, and healthy liver residing in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is passionate about many things: gardening, living simply, sustainability, yoga, making jewelry, photography, nutrition, and living a balanced, whole life. By day (and sometimes night) she works at a spirituality center, and by night (and sometimes day), she blogs about these many passions at This Original Organic Life and sells jewelry via her Etsy shop, Original Organics. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.