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5 benefits of yoga beyond the mat

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Yoga is the perfect activity to do in midlife. It’s an ideal weight-bearing exercise that improves your strength, flexibility and balance. Yoga is low-impact and can be modified to suit whatever age and stage you’re at. But it’s not just on the mat that you’ll feel the benefits, it’s the balance yoga brings to your body, mind and soul that I love.

Your choice of yoga style

It’s important to find a yoga studio that feels right for you and that offers a choice of styles of yoga. Each style has a focus that will resonate with you for different reasons at different times.

Like your yoga with a cardio-style workout? Vinyasa flow is for you. Prefer to be seated and do a series of stretches? You’ll love Yin yoga. Still sounds like too much hard work? Try restorative yoga where the emphasis is on relaxing.

My life with yoga 

Yoga has been part of my life since the 1970s. Mum and Dad were hippies of sorts – they had Age of Aquarius on high rotation, they visited the Scottish eco-community of Findhorn and they learned Reiki from a Californian guru. Mum also practiced yoga, which at the time was considered woo-woo!

I went to my first yoga class when I was a teenager. I was fascinated by the atmosphere of mysticism and reverence. The slow and gentle movement was the perfect alternative to the competitive sports scene I hated at high school.  

In the years since I’ve dipped in and out of practicing yoga. However, for the last five years I’ve made yoga a priority in my life thanks to the guidance of the fabulous women at Eve Studio who not only teach yoga but embody its philosophy.

Yoga has transformed my life, but not only from doing headstands and turning myself inside out. Jokes! As if I could do those poses! It’s the unexpected ways that yoga has enriched my life that I would love to share with you and encourage you to explore for yourself. 

5 benefits of yoga beyond the mat

1. Yoga calms your mind

Nothing calms my mind like sitting on the mat, taking a deep breath and reclining over a bolster in preparation for a yoga class. The power of stopping, feeling your heart rate slow and being aware of the sensations around you is remarkable.

The sound of chanting, the smell of incense and the dimmed light transports you to another world far removed from the busyness and stress of your day-to-day life. 

The more yoga you do the more relaxed you become. Your sleep improves and your stress levels drop. You can’t help but smile more!

2. You learn to really breathe

You’ll learn breath work, or pranayamas, during yoga classes that you can take with you off the mat to help you in all sorts of situations. Pranayamas will be your super power.

Bhramari, or Bumblebee Pranayama is my favourite, it’s so simple to do and provides instant benefits. If you have to have a difficult conversation, or give a presentation at work, or are feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list, Bumblebee will help calm your nerves.

I love this short video demonstrating Bumblebee Pranayama. Give it a go!

3. Your self-esteem and confidence grows

It’s not just the endorphins from the physical practice of yoga that makes you feel so good. Yoga teaches us that everything we need is within us. There’s a reason why there’s no mirrors in yoga studios. It’s about what’s happening on the inside, not the outside.

By regularly slowing down, learning to relax, breathe properly, visualise and meditate, your personal wisdom will be revealed. Over time, your perspective shifts. You’ll have greater clarity and confidence to deal with whatever is going on in your life at the time.

Yoga is the ultimate self-care package.

4. You connect deeply with yourself and others

As your confidence and self-esteem grow through a regular yoga practice, your connections deepen. Connection with yourself and your unique spirit through moving your body in a gentle way. Connection with others through loving thoughts and intentions, and perhaps even connection with a higher power through meditation.

You will get to know yourself and others in a deeper and more meaningful way.

At this time in our lives we are no strangers to loss, grief and heartache. Yoga can enrich your life giving you comfort and guidance as these deep connections unfold. 

5. Yoga teaches you so much

Yoga is the greatest teacher – it constantly challenges the ego. I don’t mean the kind of ego where we take dozens of photos of ourselves in the pursuit of looking perfect. It’s the more subtle kind, the kind that humbles you every time you step onto the mat. 

Some days you’ll be able to nail that balancing pose, other days you’ll be a wobbly mess. Sometimes every pose feels awkward, other times you’ll flow gracefully through them. As you’re in meditative savasana pose your mind might be in overdrive. That’s all ok!

Yoga teaches you to just observe your thoughts, accept yourself as you are and show yourself compassion. You’ll learn to just be, and just do, with no attachment to an outcome. What a great way to live.

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.”

The Bhagavad Gita

Bring the benefits of yoga to your life

Yoga offers me so many tools to help navigate this time in my life. The physical benefits of doing yoga on a regular basis are fantastic for my overall wellbeing, but it’s the benefits to my mind and my soul that I love the most.

I really hope you will explore the benefits it can bring to your life too. 

Do you love yoga? Has it had a profound impact on your life? I’d love to hear!

Sally xx

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