Have you ever pushed through a challenging fitness class where your instructor encouraged you to take the same level of tenacity and intensity with you when you left? How did it feel to show up in other areas of your life with a newfound sense of purpose or energy?
Yoga is a lot like this. As a unique practice for the body, mind, and spirit, yoga is practiced off the mat just as much as it is on. And while tenacity and intensity are qualities that you can cultivate in a yoga class, this practice welcomes all states of being.
When I first started consistently practicing yoga, I didn’t know anything about it. Although I was curious why people who practiced it always seemed so calm and happy, I arrived on my mat with zero expectations or goals.
It took a few months before I began to see some major positive shifts in my mental health. It started the day I realized I hadn’t reached for my bottle of ADHD medication in a while. I had been so focused and clear-headed that it took weeks just to realize that something was missing. Except, nothing was missing at all – I had everything I needed within me all along. Yoga just gave me the tools I needed to access it.
Better focus and concentration are not the only ways yoga has improved my mental health. Here is what else I’ve noticed along this journey:
Yoga has helped me find happiness
It’s not often that most of us are living in the present moment. Our thoughts are often reflections of future worries, while our happiness is also a future pursuit. It’s a pursuit that never ends because though we may find temporary happiness in our next purchase, relationship, or experience, ultimately, it’s fleeting.
By using the body and breath as tools for awareness, yoga has trained me to be as present as possible, which means less time preoccupied with past or future thoughts. More presence for me has also meant more awareness of everything I have and everything else around me. It’s hard not to feel grateful for something when you are truly aware of its presence or impact in your life.
Yoga has made me more resilient
Yoga can always be challenging, but not in the way we think at first. When you are holding certain postures or trying to balance for minutes on end, the physical strength it requires helps you realize what you are also capable of mentally.
This mental endurance, combined with the realization that nothing lasts forever once a pose changes, helped me build resilience.
Yoga has made me more content and confident
Whether it’s practiced in a group setting, yoga is an individual journey where the theme is always come as you are. These days, I show up to life exactly as I am. I experience and release my thoughts and emotions, and I try to do so without judgment.
And if you’re wondering, there are still days where I reach for my medication because I no longer have shame in asking for or receiving support. This intentional yet intuitive practice has forged such a strong connection between my body, mind, and spirit that I feel confident in knowing what I need in each moment. And more often than not, when I think I need to improve or fix myself, yoga reminds me that I probably just need more self-love and compassion instead.