A story of personal exploration at the intersection of fitness and self care.
This article was submitted to me by Sheila Olson of FitSheila.com. Sheila shared about how she “overdid the ‘fitness’ side of the equation for years – she pushed and goaded herself along with guilt until her world collapsed and she discovered the deep unhappiness she’d been avoiding “. Sheila “learned that fitness burnout is real and can happen to anyone who isn’t careful about keeping an eye on balance”.
Here are her thoughts and recommendations, born from her personal experience, of how yoga has made her life better and hopefully how it can make your life better as well!
Yoga is the Ultimate Self-Care Practice for Fitness
For those who are engaged in a fitness routine of any nature, yoga and its mindfulness opportunities provide unparalleled support that helps you physically and mentally. Yoga is unique in that many consider it to be an exercise program of its own, and they’d be partially correct. Yoga is more than its poses, however – it is a practice that infuses your life with positivity, purpose and calmness.
The power of yoga
Yoga provides at least two major benefits. First, there are the physical rewards of working through the asanas, or poses. These poses provide the following benefits to your body:
- Increased flexibility. Yoga poses often take different parts of your body through normal ranges of motion. The stretches build slowly, so your muscles are ready for other activities ranging from walking to high-impact workouts.
- Muscle strength and tone. Many asanas build strength. Our bodies can be great resistance weights when we use them in the right way.
- Increased balance. Balance is a cornerstone of the practice of yoga, be it in our physical or emotional lives.
Beyond the direct physical benefits of yoga, the practice also infuses life with healthy positivity. Those who practice yoga are more likely to make healthier choices in the rest of their lives. From diet to professional and personal relationships, the practice of yoga creates a life change for many. This life change is precisely what those seeking greater fitness need. Often, we fail to meet exercise goals because we get distracted, bored, or “regular life” steps in to become a fitness hurdle. Yoga helps people turn healthy living into part of regular life.
Yoga also encourages mindfulness. A group yoga class routinely begins with a call for silent contemplation to prepare for the hour, and also closes with a reflection on the class, on one’s day, and encouragement to let go of any stress. Yoga, then, is exercise that guides its practitioners to self-knowledge. This meditative component of yoga helps support fitness in many ways, including learning more about your body and mind connection.
Create a meditation sanctuary
Mindfulness opportunities do not only exist in the yoga studio, however. The beauty of yoga is how one can incorporate even small parts of mindfulness into their daily practice. Meditation is a way to focus on oneself and create balance in one’s life. Meditation is personal, and in order to be effective, it should be done in a simple, serene environment.
At home, you can create a meditation area so you can maximize benefits of mindfulness for your exercise regimen and your life. The key with a home meditation space is to make it useable. Are your home-office papers all over the room? Then it may be difficult for you to let go of the day’s stresses, especially if you have emails to answer and other work demands. Ideally, your meditation space would be a separate quiet area, but as long as you can close off the rest of the world briefly, even a corner of a busy room is preferable to nothing.
Mindfulness means making room for hobbies and interests
When you tap into your inner self during meditation – either through yoga or at home – think about fun and rewarding activities other than work. Hobbies are fuel for happiness and well-rounded lives. Whatever your passion, pursue it on even a small scale. Many adults drop their hobbies of youth, but it is these activities that can bring the most joy and contentment.
Well-rounded wellness means getting enough sleep
A final benefit of yoga is how it supports healthy sleep. Its physical component can make you tired and needing more rest, and its ability to help you think more clearly can shut down noise that might otherwise keep one from sleeping.