About three months after beginning a regular yoga practice of twice a week, I began to see some significant changes in my life.
My first ‘aha’ moment came after a family holiday gathering. I hadn’t become stressed about the two-hour drive or worried that my young children were going to misbehave. I wasn’t even concerned about what I wore or if I had a pimple or whether or not I was having a bad hair day.
Even more peculiar, no one ruffled my feathers during the event. I began to question why it had taken me 38 years to be unconcerned about receiving little judgmental side comments.
This was my first hint that yoga was changing me.
The Big ‘O’
A few weeks after that, something really crazy happened in the bedroom. I had an orgasm in a position that I had never been able to before. Coincidence? Maybe. I ended up concluding that certain yoga positions opened up and stretched out tight groin muscles which made me a little more flexible.
Yoga also had been helping me be more present in the moment, so instead of thinking about whether my belly flab was hanging out or if my thighs were jiggling, I was just enjoying the sensations.
Who knows? (And who cares?!)
A Taste of Mindfulness
After a calming but invigorating Saturday morning yoga class, another unusual incident occurred: instead of indulging in my traditional weekend cheesy egg omelet and home fries, my body was craving a seaweed salad. Who the heck craves seaweed?
It seemed like I was naturally supporting my goals to be healthier. A light bulb went off in my head after I heard about a study led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center concluding that a regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating, and people who eat mindfully are less likely to be of higher weight.
In another study performed by Alan Kristal, D.Ph., yoga practitioners were more likely to be at their natural healthy weight. This was attributed to increased awareness, specifically a sensitivity to hunger and satiety, rather than the physical activity of yoga itself. People who practiced yoga started eating less, eating more slowly, choosing healthier foods, and showing fewer symptoms of eating disorders.
Yoga also opened a door of mindfulness for me during my afternoon runs. I periodically began to perform body scans to feel my feet on the earth as I ran, noticing if my core was engaged, and consciously relaxing my shoulders. This helped to reduce the stress on my body while the exercise itself cleared my mind.
5 Yoga Poses to Counter the Effects of Today’s Society
- Mountain Pose – Benefits include improved posture and body awareness.
- Begin with feet standing a comfortable distance apart.
- Look down at your feet and notice if the toes are turned in or out, adjusting so the toes are forward, making a square box.
- Stand nice and tall, having equal pressure between the balls of the feet and the heels, and close your eyes.
- Scan your body from the ground up, releasing any tension and noticing any area of the body that needs healing. Relax your shoulders away from your ears, and settle your shoulder blades down your back. Relax your jaw, and extend the crown of the head toward the sky.
- Stand and breath for 3-5 minutes to ground, and drop into your body.
- Downward Facing Dog – Benefits include calming the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression. Energizes the body and stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands.
- Begin by bending over with knees bent and place your hands on your mat.
- Step back so the body is in the shape of an inverted “V”. Place the feet a comfortable distance apart, aim the tailbone up toward the sky with a neutral spine. Gaze your eyes toward the belly button.
- Settling the shoulder blades onto the back, gently press the heels toward your mat for a gentle calf and Achilles stretch.
- Breath in this pose for up to 20 breath cycles, easing the knees down and resting in Child’s Pose when ready.
- This pose requires significant shoulder strength, so if you are taking care of your shoulders today, you can modify by placing your hands on the seat of a stable chair, walking your feet back, focusing on the deep stretch of the back side of the body while relaxing your head, neck, and shoulders.
- Camel Pose – Benefits including stretching the entire front side of the body and improves posture.
- Come onto your knees in a kneeling position, stacking your hips above your knees, and curling your back toes under.
- Placing two fists in the small of the lower back, squeeze shoulder blades together behind you to open the chest.
- Take a deep breath in, look up and relax shoulders. Exhaling, looking back behind you.
- If it is accessible to you today, go ahead and reach back for your heels. If coming onto your knees does not feel right, you can do this pose seated in a chair by reaching back for the back of the chair, and pressing your chest forward to intensify the stretch.
- Seated Spinal Twist – Benefits include massaging internal abdominal organs and relieving lower back pain.
- Seated on the floor with your left leg out in front of you, hug your right knee with your left arm and reach your right arm back behind you.
- Twist through your belly, adding your chest, shoulders, and lastly, the neck by looking back behind you.
- Breath here 5-10 breath cycles and then repeat on the left side. This pose can be performed while seated in a chair.
- Legs Up The Wall – Benefits include stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to release relaxing hormones and reducing stress. This is a great pose to do at the end of a long day to help you sleep. Also reduces varicose veins and swelling of the ankles.
- Sitting on the floor, raise legs straight up the wall with your buttocks as close to the wall as possible, so the body is in an ‘L’ shape.
- If it feels good, you can stay in this pose for 3-5 minutes, relaxing the mind and focusing on your breath.
Yoga has been the link to mindfulness for me. And when we are mindful, we begin to practice behaviors that can lead to healthier choices, developing self-compassion and body awareness, and helping to prevent emotional eating.