Benefits of Yoga Beyond the Mat:
Everyone who has read my yoga blogs for Empower Personalized Fitness is well aware of the benefits yoga can have, with regular practice, to improve strength, balance and flexibility. But, what you might not know is the positive effects the regular practice of yoga can have on other parts of your life. In my personal practice I have found improved focus which allows me to calm and center myself which, in general, makes me feel less stress. But, I wondered, if others had different or similar experiences and decided to ask a couple of true athletes here at Empower to weigh in. What I found both surprised and humbled me.
First, one of our new spring interns, Cody Johnson, a UNC senior and kicker for the 2013/2014 UNC football team, stated that the yoga practices incorporated into the football practice schedule not only helped to provide him with an “improved stabilization system, better balance, and a better view on nontraditional exercise routines, at least in terms of football strengthening/conditioning … I also felt much more recovered each week, which gave me more motivation and more energy to push harder in each consecutive lifting or running session.” As any athlete, at any age, will tell you, motivation is key to performance.
My second discussion on the benefits of yoga come from Judy Chandler, who finished her first Iron Man competition this past spring. Judy will admit that at first it took a little coaxing from her coach to find the desire to try yoga out. But, after just a few sessions, Judy noticed that she “made progress in both strength and flexibility … and having a teacher rather than a video, of course, gave the personal touch of working on what needed work.”
She continued to say that the concept of focusing on what she needed allowed her to stop competing with her classmates. Coming from a competitive athlete, this experience intrigued me. So I asked Judy to explain this a little more. Here is when Judy reminded me that in yoga there is no ego, there is just settling and listening to the body. For most new to the practice of yoga this is an unfamiliar concept and often seems counter-intuitive to making advancements in your practice. But, for Judy, the time to do this allowed her to better understand her body and what it needed. This in turn allowed her to work with her coach and to train smarter and more efficiently.
Judy continued to share that her teacher “added some meditation to classes and talked about different strategies to help push past difficulties with breathing and focus.” Regular practice also had an impact on other parts of her life. In addition to helping her stay calm, “the things I learned in yoga helped me finish my race without negative thoughts.”
I was touched when both Cody and Judy shared their experiences with me because, as a yoga teacher, my training allows me to offer a space for class participants to grow and strengthen physically. But, as I learned, it is also a place that allows philosophical seeds to take root and grow with each person in a way that is of value to them. And, the thought that that seed can then be motivational and inspiring is a pretty special benefit.
Interested in trying yoga out? Check out Empower’s yoga schedule at www.becomepowrful.com.
We’ll see you on the mat!
RJ is a member of International Association of Yoga Therapists, Yoga Alliance and is CPR AED certified. RJ holds a 200-hour Prana Flow® teacher certification from Evolve Movement, Raleigh, NC and is working toward her 1000-hour certification in yoga therapy through a combination of intensive study with Joseph and Lillian LaPage at Kripalu and internship. Additionally, RJ holds a Bachelors of Arts in English with a minor in Creative Writing from West Virginia University.