There are endless amounts of benefits of practicing yoga. Yoga has become more popular yet many men (and women) consider yoga to be for women. At Elite I have seen growth in men attending yoga classes. I would say anywhere from 20-30% of men are now practicing yoga as they share their thoughts on how it has improved their Tennis or Golf game. I think one of the most confusing things for people is understanding the difference between yoga and exercise, and that progression in practice does not mean progression in advanced postures.
So, what does progression in your yoga practice really mean? Yoga is a 24/7 practice of awareness, consciousness, and unconditional love, i.e. “giving Gratitude.” It should be practiced on and off the mat, into our every action and thought. When we practice yoga postures, we’re actually using the physical body to understand what is going on internally within on our own bodies even on a spiritual level.
Progression in practice doesn’t have to do with how deep you can get into postures, if you can stick your leg behind your head, or how long you can hold a handstand. It is inevitable that if you practice long enough and challenge yourself, that stuff will come, but think of it more like a side effect of consistent practice. Modifications to each asana are available as well, depending on your level of practice. From the basic to the advanced class there is a yoga class for you.
The commitment to a consistent yoga practice will create humility, compassion, patience, and a sense of stillness in the mind that grows over a long period of time. It grows slowly, which is something that is hard for people to understand or accept. When you can accept that yoga is not just about the postures, then the frustration due to physical limitations will start to fall away.
I always say in my classes that yoga is not about competition or judgement, but instead its purpose is to practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness means observing yourself without judging yourself. A value to practicing Mindfulness is it changes who you are, experiencing freedom from fear and finding a sense of who you are.
It is important to push your limits and challenge yourself in yoga practice, but that does not mean creating pain or hurting yourself. It also does not mean pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion. There has to be a balance in order to relax the muscles and release the tension. (Feel that sensation? It’s your body talking to you.) As you practice consistently your level will progress, both mentally and physically.
By Tom Feest CYT, ERYT, Elite Sports Clubs Exhale Studios Program Director