7 Reasons to Step on Your Yoga Mat ...

It’s Thanksgiving morning and after a long hiatus from my yoga mat, I made conscious efforts to go to a class. Stepping on my yoga mat for the first time in months was much anticipated and fretted. If you think like me, then you probably ready for the post-yoga bliss but worried that the other yogis — who you are convinced are Yoga Journal worthy — will judge your lack of flexibility. But consider these reasons to step onto your yoga mat because in my experience, it’s always worth it!

1. Refocus

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As most seasoned - or Google-educated - yogis know, yoga is a brilliant way to refocus. By calling attention to your breath and the grounding of your feet on your yoga mat, it helps calm the mind. Drishti is the soft, focal point where the eyes gaze during a pose. Having one point to look at releases the tension of watching other yogis and helps establish balance, especially in Tree Pose where it’s easy to fall to the side. Whenever I leave a yoga class, I feel centered and ready to embrace the day.

2. Exercise

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It’s not a surprise that with Twister-like poses in yoga you are getting quite the work-out. Balance poses help build strength while hip-opening poses increase flexibility. There are different types of yoga depending on your practice. Before you attend a class, take in to account the style it is. Hot yoga really works up a sweat whereas Hatha has a more meditative pace. No matter which type you choose you will stretch muscles you didn’t know you had.

3. Alleviate Ailments

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Yoga can help alleviate ailments. I didn’t appreciate the benefits of yoga until I did research on it. A simple Cat and Cow flow helps wake up the body which is perfect during long days at the office. Inversions such as resting your legs up the wall trigger the lymphatic system and can speed up the recovery process from the flu. A regular yoga practice toughens your immune system to face whatever Mother Nature throws its way. So if you start to feel achy, sick or sore, check out which yoga poses are best for you!

4. Socialize

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At my yoga class this morning, the studio was buzzing with friendliness and conversation. Sure, gratitude was increased by the current holiday, but attending classes is a great way to stay social. My favorite parts are catching up with fellow yogis and inviting friends to share a practice with me. Different studios offer different programs but one aspect I love about mine is the occasional book club meeting mixed with a vegetarian pot-luck. Look out for social get-togethers like this!

5. Mindfulness

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What better way to tap into the present moment than yoga? My yoga teacher gently reminds us during our practice that it only takes one breath to be in the present moment. By bringing attention not only to your breathing but also the rise and fall of the chest and the sound of your breath and that of your neighbor’s, you are mindful. In a society where we are constantly fretting the future and pondering the past it’s not always easy to just breathe and be. So why not let yoga take you there?

6. Balancing Act

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Yoga helps balance the body (and I don’t mean as you wobble in Eagle). Whether your teacher brings awareness to it or not, you are still benefiting from the alignment of the body. There are four poles of your feet and by adjusting the weight from front-to-back and left-to-right you are able to establish balance. This means you have equal weight on all parts of your feet and it actually makes standing easier than putting all the weight in one spot. Imagine its benefits on the rest of the body!

7. Fun

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Yoga is fun! When I don’t have the chance to attend a studio, I often listen to an audio session. It’s not the same as being in class but it can add value to my practice. The woman directed to move through a series of Cat and Cow, stressing the need it «let it feel good.» Knowing that you may never get your feet to the ground in Downward Dog takes away the pressure and allows you to enjoy the poses as they come. So let yoga feel good.

On those chillier mornings or after a long hiatus, I know it’s hard to step onto your yoga mat, but with these solid reasons you might just find yourself in Downward Dog before you know it. What do you think is the main reason you don’t step on your mat? Which of these tips did you find most helpful?

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