Yoga: Ctrl + F5 for your Body and Mind

“I’m not flexible enough.” “I don’t have time.” “It doesn’t do anything.”

It’s the same excuses I always hear when I tell people to try yoga. Just the thought of the ancient practice conjures up images of yogis bent over in awkward, excruciating, contorted positions, and it doesn’t take much for people to be immediately turned off. What most people don’t know is that you don’t have to be flexible at all to do yoga–you just have to be willing to try. Once you experience the immense benefits it has on you, both physically and mentally, you’ll be making time for it. And trust me: it does a LOT.

I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for almost seven years, and it seems that there’s a huge misconception about what it really is. Yoga is not just about twisting your body into weird shapes. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever twisted my body into a particularly weird shape at all (but if you’re curious, here are some really weird poses). Yoga is a gentle exercise that improves your body’s flexibility, balance, posture, and control, while promoting relaxation. When done properly, even for just a short amount of time, your body AND mind will feel rejuvenated. And I know I’m not alone–yoga is more popular than ever now in America, so maybe it’s time for you to give it a shot.

Find What Works for You

There’s so many different types and methods of yoga out there that it’s easy to get confused. No one way is the “right” or “wrong” way; every teacher, class, and website will show you something different and claim that it’s “the best”.. I myself follow the Integral Yoga method, but you just have to find what works for you. So explore around! Take a class if you can (a lot of colleges offer free recreational classes for their students) or just YouTube it if you’re feeling inquisitive.

Yoga is not something that will help you drop 10 lbs in a week or tone your arms after just two sessions. It’s important to remember that it is a gradual process that emphasizes slow stretching and control, meaning you won’t see immediate physical results. If something hurts, you shouldn’t keep going. Try things out until you discover something that makes YOU feel good–and set aside enough time for you to continue it regularly, so that in a few weeks or months, you will indeed see the effects.

Make Time in Your Life

Yoga works slowly and requires regularity, so it’s important to make time for it in your daily routine. Whether it’s 15 minutes of deep breathing as soon as you wake up, or a full hour of stretching and relaxation before bed, your routine will be effective only with consistency. I personally find my mornings to be fairly rushed, and I like my yoga to last at least a half an hour, so I try to fit my routine in every night before bed.

Think about how much time you waste every day. Yeah, I’m talking about how you didn’t need to talk to that girl next door for ten minutes in the hall (she’ll be there all year), and how you didn’t need to stalk your ex’s Facebook profile for a half an hour (it’s not helping your situation), and how you definitely didn’t need to spend an hour whining about your essay (you’re not any closer to finishing it). In fact, the relaxation induced by just a few minutes of yoga can help clear your mind for the rest of the day, so you’re more likely to get things done.

Yoga (image courtesy of Flickr user Grand Velas Riviera Maya)

Focus on Your Mind, Too

In addition to various poses that increase flexibility and balance, yoga also involves breathing and meditation techniques that help decrease stress and improve concentration. The key to successfully practicing yoga is to put 100% into it. If you focus your mind while conditioning your body, you’ll feel better all day long–in your body and mind. It’s no wonder this practice has been around for so many centuries, and has been hailed as effective by experts in so many different fields.

Whether you’re an all-star athlete or a regular couch potato, there’s really nothing stopping you from trying out something that’s sure to improve your day. Not flexible? Trust me, you’re not getting any more flexible just sitting there reading this article. No time? Seriously, consider fifteen less minutes each day online, watching TV, or sitting around not doing anything. Not worth it? Nothing’s worth it until you try.

So go hit that Ctrl + F5 on your life. Breathe in, breathe out–and refresh your body and mind. It doesn’t hurt to try, right?

Hema is a junior at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and is passionate about the environment, technology, media, the arts, and of course, writing. She's pretty good at making people believe she actually knows what she's talking about, even if she doesn't. Follow her on Twitter!

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