According to the American Osteopathic Association, regularly practicing yoga comes with a whole range of mental and physical health benefits. From increased mental clarity and calmness to greater flexibility and improved energy levels, these supposed benefits might seem a little too good to be true. Partially out of curiosity and partially because I’ve been feeling particularly overwhelmed lately, I decided to give it a go. As such, I committed my Zoom-fatigued and stiff-limbed self to doing yoga every morning for a week.
Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m as lost as the next aspiring yogi when it comes to yoga. I think my experience starts and ends with the Downward Dog. With a quick search and two clicks, however, I found myself in the presence of Adriene, Youtube’s most infamous yogi. There’s a diverse selection of yoga videos on her channel, but I chose to keep it quick and simple with her 11-minute “Wake-Up Yoga” practice. Over the course of this weeklong endeavor of dragging my sleepy body out of bed every morning (admittedly, often with great difficulty), I made a few noteworthy realizations.
Deep breathing is underrated
One of the main components of yoga is breathing, specifically deep and mindful breathing. Yes, we know, breathing is undeniably crucial to maintaining a fully functioning and living body. Everyone breathes, all the time, so why does yoga make such a big deal out of it? Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which tells your body to slow your heart beat, calm down and relax. I noticed that practicing this, even if only for a few minutes every morning, began to subtly impact me throughout the day. Whenever I encountered any stressors, I instinctively took deeper breaths and immediately felt a bit better. Funnily enough, you don’t realize how important the way you breathe is and how much a role it plays in your life until you’re forced to notice it.
Mindfulness is powerful
As busy and stressed college students constantly on the go, one of the coping mechanisms often advertised to us is mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we’re doing, without being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Theoretically, it seems easy. In practice, however, it can be difficult to fully focus on the present moment. And it was challenging, at first. As Adriene instructed me to pay attention to my body and breath, I realized how easily distractible I was. My mind often flitted from one scattered thought to the next even though I’d barely woken up. With time, however, I began to simply notice. I noticed the early morning quiet in my home, the stillness of the air and the chilliness of the hardwood floor. Throughout the day, I noticed myself becoming more aware of my mind and how I responded to stress — much more than normal, at least. Weirdly enough, the simple act of noticing improved my ability to ground myself and focus.
I didn’t think a few minutes of yoga would cause such subtle, yet profound changes in my day-to-day life. Honestly, it might even be placebo. But by the end of the week, I found myself a bit more relaxed, my body a lot more flexible and my mind a bit more aware of the present moment, even under the weight of all my worries. And so, whether you’re feeling a bit tense or just looking for something new to try, I encourage you to explore the practice of yoga! There are countless yoga routines available to you for no cost on YouTube ranging in intensity and length. As you search for the perfect one for your abilities and preferences, you just might find yourself pleasantly surprised. I, for one, will most definitely be continuing my mornings with Adriene.
Contact Kristie Lin at [email protected].