You can find dozens of excellent reasons for doing yoga if you look hard enough—upping cortisol levels, improving muscle and ligament health, training your body how to stay in the present moment, breath by breath . . .
But I’m going to tell you three things yoga does for me. Partly because I’m the one writing this blog and partly because I haven’t seen these things written about anywhere else.
First of all, yoga makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning.
And I mean physically easier. By expending the same amount of energy I’d normally use to exit the sheets, my body is into my daily routine. This principle extends throughout my day. After some internal balancing, I find myself no longer straining to accomplish the simplest of tasks. I feel like a Kung Fu master or something, restraining myself lest I break the world with my might.
Second of all, yoga trains me how to face the hard stuff.
(But also how to forgive myself if I don’t have the energy or the mental well-being to face the hard stuff.)
Yoga takes you to the edge between comfort and discomfort. It familiarizes you with that space and trains you how to get to the other side. It trains you how not to clench or wince but to just breathe and accept it. (It also allows you to fall away from the discomfort when you need to.)
Whether you try to or not, you will carry this skill into other parts of your life. Chores. Work. Relationships. Slowly, after a few weeks or months, your body no longer tenses in anticipation of uncomfortable situations and literally everything gets easier.
Finally, it helps me address the past.
There are plenty of things about yoga that seem pretty woo-woo from the outside: mantras, healing oils, chakras (we’ll dive into down-to-earth descriptions of all of these in future posts). But confronting trauma is one I completely rejected until I experienced it firsthand. Or maybe I should say first hip.
It goes like this. You find yourself in an intense position. Let’s say pigeon pose. And suddenly, you feel this surge of anger toward someone in your life. A parent. A colleague. An ex. And you wonder where the hell that fount of intense emotion came from.
I’ll tell you.
We respond to stress by clenching our muscles. Too much clenching creates stiffness and tension. We store a lot of that tension in our hips. When you go into the studio and slowly but surely work out those muscles, you exhume feelings you had when you stored that tension in your hips.
Sound a little nuts? Think of it this way instead.
If you’re like most other people, certain scents will transport your thoughts back in time. The same principle applies to old feelings in your muscles. When you feel a bit more wiggly in your hips, you unlock sensory experiences that you had before you started storing stress there. It can be a little overwhelming releasing these buried feelings, but it provides you an opportunity to face those tensions again. To choose not to clench around them but instead to remain fluid. We all make better choices when we’re more relaxed.
So come into Avenues Yoga and leave feeling a bit more youthful, more able to face the hard things, and more able to get out of bed in the morning.
I’ll see ya there.
Christian McKay Heidicker reads and writes and drinks tea. Between his demon-hunting cat and his fiddling, red-headed fiancée, he feels completely protected from evil spirits. Christian is the author of Scary Stories for Young Foxes, Cure for the Common Universe and Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. cmheidicker.com