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For us at Yoga Journal, every month is yoga month. There isn’t a day that goes by when we’re not thinking about it, learning about it, writing about it, posting about it, or practicing it. And we’re guessing it’s the same for many of you. But during this year’s National Yoga Awareness Month, we wanted to take a step back to consider and celebrate some of the reasons why we all come to yoga.
The many benefits of your yoga practice
Science has confirmed, time and again, the many health benefits of the physical practice of yoga. While there is value in this, much of yoga’s effectiveness lies in the less quantifiable way that the practice makes you feel: Strong when you press up into Plank or lift into Handstand, liberated when a twist offers release and relief, exhilarated the first time you lean forward into Crow.
Beyond the physical practice, you can turn to pranayama at any moment in your day to calm your jangled nerves. When things are unsettled in life, you can sit for just five minutes in meditation to help you find balance. And each day as you interact with others, there are ways to practice generosity, kindness, honesty, and all of the other essential qualities of being human that are at the root of yoga philosophy.
Whether you’re sweating it out in a hot yoga class, holding on to let go in Yin, or resting flat out in Savasana, your practice becomes an extension and an expression of who you are. Each visit to your mat is effectively practicing how you show up to life. Yoga’s greatest benefit may be in how it helps you be the person you want to be.
What brings you to yoga?
Everyone comes to the mat for their own reasons, but our motivations tend to have a few things in common: We want to feel strong and flexible; we want to find a sense of balance and a little (or a lot of) peace. Yoga gives us all of that and in more ways than just the obvious. Throughout the next four weeks, we’ll explore how yoga helps you live the life you envision for yourself.
You’ve experienced how yoga can help ease your tight muscles and achy joints and make everyday movement a little easier. Just as a consistent yoga practice leads to subtle and incremental changes throughout your physical body, being flexible also means being open to new ways of seeing and experiencing things, including finding a willingness to compromise in relationships, allowing others to have a different experience from you without judgment, and letting yourself sleep if you’re tired rather than dragging yourself to a 6 am class for the umpteenth time this week. Overall, flexibility is being less perfectionistic and more patient—with yourself and others.
Flexibility Week: September 4-10
Practice with Jivana Heyman (@jivanaheyman) and Kino MacGregor (@kinoyoga) on IG Live and explore the many various ways you can find flexibility. Can’t make it? Practice with the recorded class.
Tuesday, September 6, 2022 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET.
When you hold a yoga pose, you challenge your muscles in order to strengthen them. In a similar fashion, you also strengthen your concentration and your ability to overcome the voice of self-doubt.
Strength can feel invincible yet also be graceful at the same time, like the way you feel when you hang your head back in Wild Thing. Remind yourself of that feeling when you want to shrink in a challenging life situation. Remember how many times you practiced that pose before you felt confident in it? Take strength from that.
Strength Week: September 11-17
The lessons we learn when we practice balance poses mirror so much of what we need to understand in life: Find your center. Trust your core. Adjust your position. Be willing to sway and fall and try again until you find your equilibrium. Repeat.
There’s also the balance you strike each day between your devotion to loved ones and your commitment to work. Between building healthy boundaries and remaining open-hearted. Between fighting for what you believe in and deciding to let go. Yoga is the practice of quiet perseverance that can lead you to inner equipoise.
Balance Week: September 18-24
Many of us come to yoga looking for a remedy for the chaos in our lives. When something is lost or broken, or our world seems to be spinning out of control, the mat is our respite. We practice how to be so attuned to our bodies and focused on our breath that we can lessen the grip of our thoughts. Or we can simply curl up in Child’s Pose or rest in Savasana.
Even when you don’t have time to come to the physical practice, the fullness of yoga, known as the Eight Limbs, can assist you. Yoga also encourages quiet mindfulness—turning within, focusing our attention, finding stillness in meditation—no matter the chaos around us. Yoga as a practice can help you find your quiet center within–even when the noise and busyness of life are swirling all around you.
Calm Week: September 25-30
Soothe your body and quiet your mind with a calming practice on IG Live. Check this space for details.