YOGA: The best excuse for doing almost nothing and calling it something

I am one of those people that have always believed a workout should include hundreds of push ups, more pull ups than your arms can handle and climbing up and down a rope enough times to give your calluses their own calluses.

I guess being a circus performer for a good part of your life will set those high expectations.

So the idea of sitting in a room and learning how to breathe properly has never really seemed like a great workout option to me.

I am new to the whole ‘yoga’ thing and I have to tell you, aside from coming out of my 60 minute hot yoga class sweating more than I ever have before, I can honestly say I felt like I had one hell of a workout physically, while feeling as if I had been on a week-long holiday to the Maldives mentally.

So what is yoga?

According to Yoga Australia there are many different ideas related to Yoga, where it comes from, what it is all about, and how to practice a range of techniques.

Generally, it is “recognised as an ancient system of philosophies, principles and practices… In Yoga, the body, breath and mind are seen as a union of [the] multi-dimensional aspects of each and every human being.

The system and various techniques of Yoga cultivate the experience of that union, leading to greater integration of being, internal peacefulness, and clarity of the mind.”

Through regular practice of a range of various  techniques, “including postures and movement, breath awareness and breathing exercises, relaxation and concentration, self inquiry and meditation”, Yoga cultivates health and wellbeing physically, emotionally, mentally and socially.

Yoga is an approach to life that values appropriate effort, based on balance and harmony, within each person and with each other.

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.”

– The Bhagavad Gita

After nearly 8 years of training in the circus doing aerial acrobatics and crossfit I was very skeptical when I first decided to attend a hot yoga class as to whether this ‘workout’ was even going to ‘work me out’. However three days later my muscles were still tight!

Although on the outside it may seem like I’m dreading the next class I’m also secretly looking forward to getting back into that 35 degree room and seeing if my balance, strength and flexibility have improved in my 2 days of rest… Surely one class is enough to call myself a yogi, right?

I initially decided to try my first ever hot yoga class because I had heard the endless pitches about how yoga can help relax you, relieve you from stress ss, enlighten you… and help you get that summer bod with an awesome over-split in the process.

As I said, I was skeptical to say the least, but I decided to go into my next  class open minded and willing to give it 100% .

I am happy to say that upon completing the class, I am now the proud owner of a Bonfire Yoga annual pass and plan to continue my yoga journey well into the future.

I’ve definitely heard from all the true ‘yogis’ I’ve spoken to (Yogi = Practitioner of Yoga) that yoga works to de-stress you mentally while working your body physically and, from my personal experience, I can attest to that statement!

But is that just me and my new found love for getting my body into the most strange and least comfortable positions possible while sweating like crazy in a 35 degree room? I’m not sure! So, I’ve decided to check the facts and see what the professionals have to say.

A study performed by the Department of Psychology and Centre for Health Equity Studies from Stockholm University found that yoga was proven to be a promising stress management technique.

Stress is one of those common things that just about everyone experiences at least once, but it’s also something that can often be overlooked and cast aside as nothing serious.

Being a university student, the feeling of being overwhelmed by stress is one that I know all too well. From experience, I’m aware that it really does affect more than just your mind.

So what is stress?

There are 4 main types of stress:

  • Frustration: experienced whenever the pursuit of some goal is thwarted. Most frustration people experience is short-lived and insignificant.
  • Conflict: occurs when people have two or more choices to make.
  • Change: Everyone experiences change in their life. Psychologists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed the “Social Readjustment Rating Scale,” which measures the top 43 major life events. The changes on this scale can be added up to determine your level of stress. Some of the events include death of a spouse, divorce, fired at work, pregnancy, change in financial state, change to a different line of work, etc.
  • Pressure: the demands and expectations that people have.

There are endless articles that outline and discuss the many negative impacts that stress has on the brain  and the human body as a whole.

In their article, Coping With Stress, Bethany Cohen and Melissa Helquist talk about the benefits of doing yoga as a coping mechanism for stress. Yoga is a great exercise for stress relieve and can be easy for those not in shape.

With its series of postures and controlled-breathing exercises, yoga is a popular stress reliever.

What are some of the benefits of yoga?

  • Helps reduce stress
  • Helps you sleep
  • Reduces cortisol levels
  • Improves certain medical conditions
  • Helps relieve allergy and asthma symptoms
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces anxiety and muscle tension, and many others.

Along with many others! Check out this article 38 Health Benefits of Yoga to read up on the benefits.

There many different types of yoga for everyone. There’s yoga for strengthening and flexibility. There’s yoga for relaxation and energizing the body and mind. There are aerobic yoga’s as well as many others.

There has been an increase in the amount of research into the role of mind-body type exercises such as yoga. Recent reviews on clinical trial interventions indicate that exercises such as yoga can be very effective in reducing stress.

Don’t worry though! All of these studies and reports don’t mean that you have to haul yourself into a yoga studio twice a day, every day of the week.

It has been found that Yoga sessions between 60 and 90 minutes performed 2 to 3 days per week were effective in reducing stress and improving feelings of well-being.

A study was also conducted in a worksite environment which showed that only 15 minutes of chair-based yoga postures was effective in reducing acute stress.

Check out this video for a series of chair-based yoga postures:

So, I for one am convinced! Hard to believe, right? Not really! Being able to achieve my strength, flexibility and fitness goals all at once while also relieving myself of the stresses of day to day life is incredible! And no, I don’t mean these kind of fitness goals:

I can honestly say that after only a handful of classes my motivation is through the roof and I cannot wait to continue on my yoga journey.

And for those that are hesitant or truly do believe that yoga is an easy way of doing nothing and calling it something, I double dare you to take a 90-minute hot yoga class.

We can resume this discussion once you’re done!

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