My daughter, Rachel Bleicken, is 2018’s first guest blogger here at Ripples of Insight. Rachel owns and operates a Waldorf-inspired daycare in her home and is an avid proponent of RIE parenting. You can check out her amazing vision and work by visiting http://www.marigoldchildrensgarden.com.
At the end of a long and grueling day on the job, what’s your go-to guilty pleasure? How do you like to reward yourself? Is it the decaf latte you drink on your way home or the Mexican take-out you pick up for dinner? Maybe it’s a long, hot bath surrounded by candles and essential oils. Each of those things can be good, but what if I told you that one of the best things you can ever do for yourself is yoga.
There are many acts of self-love, and one of my favorites (besides chocolate) is treating myself to a yoga class. Sure, I can do yoga every morning at 5am in the comfort of my own living room. But yoga alone in the morning compared to a yoga class at the end of a long exhausting day is like the difference between ordering a pack of underwear on amazon.com and slowly wandering through the lingerie at a Victoria’s Secret. Both may get me what you need, but only one of them allows me to savor the moment in the process.
I operate a daycare in my home. Anyone who has ever taken care of toddlers knows one thing: kids demand energy. Lots of it. At the end of the day I feel completely spent, and most of the time I just want to crawl into bed and sleep until kingdom come. One Thursday afternoon, my mom asked me if I wanted to attend a yoga class with her – at 7:45pm. I will admit to being skeptical. Me go to a yoga class an hour and a half before bedtime on a school night? How would I even stay awake for it? And if I did, would my body survive? In the end I agreed. I felt excited about it too. After all, it had been almost two years since I had attended my last yoga class. Time flies when you are taking care of children all day, every day.
That Thursday night I got my downward dog back – like, perfect triangle, my heels all the way to the mat. By the end of the hour, I felt like a whole. new. person. Let’s just say I’m hooked. I’ve since purchased a Groupon for 30 days of unlimited classes, and signed up for 3-4 classes a week for the next month.
But don’t take it from me, there is actual science to back up my experience.
4 Proven Benefits of Yoga
Yoga reduces stress
Practicing yoga is proven to reduce stress. Most of you are probably saying, “duh”, but seriously—in a culture where “being stressed out” is the norm, we could all use as many forms of relief as possible. This study published by Harvard Health, indicates that “[yoga] practices can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression.” Another study done in 1975 (one of the first on the subject) claimed that doing yoga reduced high blood pressure better than relaxation practices alone.
Yoga increases energy
When you work in a fast-paced, high-energy, physically demanding job like I do, it’s hard to believe that going to a yoga class will give you more energy, but yoga actually evens out blood flow and reduces fatigue. For a guide on poses that increase energy, click here.
Yoga promotes healing
Many alternative medicine practitioners prescribe yoga to heal various ailments. Usually the ailments are muscular, such as soreness or tightness in areas of the back, neck, or shoulders. Stretching exercises done during yoga can loosen tight muscles and provide pain relief. But yoga can heal us in other ways as well. According to this study, the blood thins when doing yoga, reducing the risk of cardiac arrest and elevating aerobic endurance. While there are strenuous poses, most yoga classes end with restorative positions designed to leave students feeling relaxed and refreshed. In this article, a woman describes how she used yoga to actually heal her body, one class at a time.
Yoga increases awareness
According to this article by the American Osteopathic Association, “The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body,” explains Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California.
Our culture is full of distractions. We are all doing ten million things at once and carrying more than humanly possible on our invisible to-do lists. Or is that just me? There is such a need for us to stop and just BE. Yoga helps us to increase our awareness through meditation, focused breathing, and for a short time, giving our attention to only one thing: quieting the mind to listen to the body.
The next time you are stressed out and exhausted, consider stepping into the powerful renewal that a yoga class can give. I am so grateful to Alice, Kia, and the other amazing instructors over at My BodYoga (Woodbridge, VA) for helping me reclaim my Zen.
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If you like to write about alternative health/medicine, yoga, meditation, neuroscience, or the Tarot, consider sharing your insights on my blog. I will be featuring at least one guest blog per month. You can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.