I had a long day today. Again. About 6 o’clock this evening I leaned back in my chair, ran my fingers through my hair, pinched the bridge of my nose, and thought longingly about a white sandy beach far far away.
I find myself doing that a lot. And I find myself telling friends “I just need a break”. And since that’s not going to happen for another couple of months, I need to at least conjure up a mini-mental break.
Enter yoga. I’ve been doing yoga on and off for about 8 years, and I enjoyed it right from the start. Although I started it for the fitness aspect (ah, back in the days when I had a six pack), I’ve kept it up for the mini-mental break that it gives me.
Why do I like it so much?
First, it is one of the least stressful and competitive things I’ve ever done. Instructors always remind practitioners that you should only do as much as you can in a class, and that any time it is more than acceptable to relax. What other kind of exercise or sport tells you NOT to push yourself and to listen to your body? You find yourself getting better and doing more each class not to compete with the ridiculously flexible yogi next to you, but because it feels good.
Second, it employs a breathing technique that requires concentration and instantly relaxes you. And because you concentrate so much on the rhythm of your breath, it is absolutely impossible to think about anything else. The trials and tribulations of the office or the taxes or the family fade into the background, if only for those 60 or 90 minutes.
In that way, yoga is like hiking. When you are out on a difficult trail, navigating stones, roots, steep inclines and slippery surfaces, you have to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. There is no room for any other thought, and in that way, you are giving yourself a mental break.
|If you can add yoga AND hiking, all the better.|
Studies show that yoga is exceptionally good for you too - it relieves any number of ailments, including anxiety, back pain, and high blood pressure, and reduces body fat, improves muscle tone, core strength and balance, and reduces stress and tension.
My Mum had a saying when I was growing up – when trying to get me to do/eat/try something, she’d say “it’s like orange juice – it’s good for you.” Everyone knows that orange juice is packed full of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. But did you also know it contains linalool, the calming chemical in lavender? Apparently rats that inhale linalool show reduced levels of stress. (What does a stressed rat look like? I don’t want to know…)
To practice yoga you don’t have to get all up into the 5000 year-old history (although it may interest you to know that yoga is Sanskrit for “union”, generally of mind, body, and spirit.) You don’t need to understand or even buy into the chakras and the third eye and meditation and the chanting. Just know that if you give it a try, you’ll give yourself that much needed mini-mental break.
Go on. It’s good for you.