I have been a part of the YIS yoga club for about 3 years now 🙂 It was an on-off relationship during my first year because I was always skeptic of its benefits but during the last 2 years, yoga has been a very important part of my life in terms of my physical and emotional well-being (i.e; managing my stress levels, increasing productivity, and improving flexibility). I go to class every Thursday after school and each session lasts between 45 minutes to an hour.
I joined yoga in 9th grade in hopes to improve my flexibility. Being a dancer, flexibility for me is something that I need to constantly work on and maintain. I do ballet and contemporary dance, both which require lots of flexibility especially in the hips and in the arch of my feet. With the help of yoga, I am able to work on both these areas. A lot of the poses we practise in yoga requires to open our hips such as the “happy baby” and the “pigeon“. These poses in particular allow us to loosen the tightest areas in our hips and I find these the most effective out of all. I now incorporate these poses into my regular warm up routines before ballet to warm up my hips for kicks and straddles.
Some of the poses we practise in yoga also require some flexibility in the first place and these allow myself to use and maintain my flexibility just as much as I do in dance. The “Cow Face Pose” in my opinion requires a lot of flexibility in the hips and is one pose I face the most challenge with in yoga. It wasn’t until recently that I really started to realise that yoga and dance complement each other perfectly 🙂
Emotional and Mental Well-Being
I feel and notice most of the benefits of practising yoga once the session is over and I am at home ready to start my homework for the night. I think the majority thinks that yoga switches off our brain and body entirely but I think this is only true during the activity. Yoga actually provides me with the energy I need for the rest of the night – I feel more awake, more productive and more perseverant. It puts me in the mood to prioritise homework and chores whilst days without yoga is completely the opposite. Something about yoga turns on my productivity-switch 🙂
I like to think it has something to do with the mindset we practise during our yoga sessions – the calm, quiet, worry-free mindset that our instructor encourages us. We learn to rid and avoid distractions and when we do get distracted, we are told to acknowledge the thought and gently let it drift away like a leaf on a river. I think I subconsciously take this mindset with me back home and subconsciously maintain it for the rest of the night and that’s what helps me to complete my homework and ignore the things that often distract me.
Yoga also allows me to practise mindfulness in the midst of a hectic day. My days usually consist of worry and fear and MORE worry and some days it’s manageable, some days it drains all my energy out. I would be lying if I say that yoga has made these days a lot less hectic. But I genuinely think that it has allowed me to acknowledge these types of days and tell myself that “it’s all going to be ok” 🙂 During our yoga sessions, the most important thing we are taught to practise is our breathing and to focus on our breathing. During every pose, our instructor reminds us to whisper to ourselves “now I breathe in, now I breathe out” for every inhale and exhale we take. During days where I need a break from my fears and worries, I think to myself; “now I breathe in, now I breathe out” and I’m able to instantly change my mindset, switch everything off entirely, let my worries drift away and focus entirely on my breathing 🙂
There are a few other things besides yoga that also help maintain / improve my emotional and physical well-being 🙂
Last summer, I downloaded an app on my phone called “Sleep as Android” which tracks the amount of sleep I get as well as sensing my lightest and deepest sleep. I am still trying to figure out whether this app actually works and whether it does what it claims to do but so far, I’ve been really liking the way it wakes me up. The app features a built-in alarm clock that wakes me up during my lightest sleep (I only use this app during the weekend when I don’t have to worry about being late to school!). I find this super beneficial because I hate being waken up during my deepest sleep. I find it super unpleasant and I find that it negatively affects my productivity during the whole day.
Sleep is really important for me in order to maintain a positive attitude during the day and being able to track the length of my sleep and knowing whether I’m getting enough of those deep sleeps are super helpful. At the end of the week, I always go to the “overview” tab which allows me to look at my sleep patterns during the course of the entire week / month and this is really helpful because I play around with my homework and study schedules according to how much sleep I get on certain days.
A few months ago my school counsellor, who I’ve been working with since October of 2016, introduced me to “The Work” by Katie Byron. It is “a process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world.”. It consists of four questions to ask yourself when you are having difficulties ridding a constant negative thought that circles your mind.
Lastly, it asks for a “turnaround”. You are required to try and flip the negative statement around in however way you can and want to, to change it into a positive one 🙂The work’s helped me a lot to rid those “all up in the head” kind of negative thoughts that always use to eat my confidence away. Spending even just 5 minutes of my day asking myself these questions helps me work towards and maintain a positive outlook on life and they really teach me that most of my negative thoughts are really just ones that I make up myself and are truly things that I don’t have to worry about at all 🙂
I’m really proud of myself for constantly trying to find ways to look after my well-being and am also really thankful for everyone that is part of my life who help me find ways to manage my stress and take care of myself.