Like many students, I’ve placed immense pressure for achievement on myself throughout my academic career. I’m a naturally competitive person, which drives my work ethic. However, in constantly trying to be the best, school and work are often sources of anxiety for me. Because the consequences of prolonged stress on physical and mental health are significant, I yearned for a healthy way to reduce my daily stress levels.
The first yoga class I took challenged my anxious and competitive disposition in the best way imaginable. Though I always believed that competition pushed me to work harder, I’ve rarely been as dedicated to something as I am to practicing my asanas when I don’t compare myself to anyone at all. Because we each set our own intentions for our yoga practice, there is no singular definition of a “good” yogi. As someone who constantly compares myself to others, it’s extraordinarily refreshing to be engaged in an activity where the only measure of success is intrinsic.
Like so many others, I was hooked after just one class.
A quick Google search can return a laundry list of the physical benefits of a regular yoga practice. Yoga improves flexibility, muscle tone, posture, and cardiovascular health, but to me, the most significant change I’ve experienced is within my mind. Spending an hour on the mat, focused solely on breath and movement, is nothing short of therapeutic. When combined with some good music (I’m partial to Jack Johnson) and essential oils, yoga engages the senses and provides much-needed mental clarity.
If possible, I recommend going to a hot yoga class, where the 100-degree air promotes relaxation and concentration and allows your muscles to stretch more deeply into poses. Each instructor and each studio will have a different vibe, so don’t be afraid to try new classes and figure out whether you’re a yin lover or a power vinyasa girl. Many yoga studios offer a first class free, which you can (and should) take advantage of before you commit to a membership.
Though at first I was intimidated to try a class with much more experienced yogis, the yoga studio is one of the most accepting, judgment-free places I’ve been in. Since incorporating yoga into my daily routine, I feel more mentally present and aware of the energy I give off, which makes me more successful in all areas of my life.
Are you a yogi? Let us know what you love about yoga in the comments below!