The practice of yoga quite literally altered the course of my life. It came to me at a time of uncertainty, when I was searching for all sorts of things externally, and became a light that clearly showed the path ahead—internally.

Once a former college basketball player turned college coach, I had spent the majority of my life training at a high level. I thought I was physically strong & mentally tough—until I attended my first yoga class. That very first experience highlighted the imbalances in my athletic body, my tendency to blow past my body’s boundaries in the name of mental toughness, and my inability to sit with discomfort of any kind. It was like staring directly into a mirror of myself I had never seen. I was hooked!

The rest of the story (although very entertaining!) is too much to squeeze in here. The moral, however, is that through this practice I found the confidence to hang up my sneakers and move into the unknown. Now, six years later, I teach yoga in a variety of ways—from yoga studios and spas, to online and at universities. I still work with athletes, only instead of coaching from the sidelines I can be found behind the scenes teaching yoga, breath work, and meditation as tools to help maximize performance & potential.

There are so many reasons to begin a yoga practice, especially in times of uncertainty like these.

Here are my Top Five:

5.) Improve Flexibility – Regardless of the ability of your body, our physical bodies are meant to move. They are living, breathing, dynamic, interdependent masterpieces. Over time, however, whether from sedentary living or strength training, these masterpieces become imbalanced. Our muscles tighten, our joints stiffen, & our bodies find ways to adapt to this new normal, oftentimes creating greater imbalances. Yoga gives us a space to practice body awareness, to become aware of our own unique imbalances, and then work with them in a productive & specific way.

4.) Increase Lung Capacity – Breathing sets yoga apart from any other type of physical exercise because of its emphasis on the way we move our life force. Breath work, called pranayama in yoga, is one of the 8 limbs of a yoga practice and is often said to be the most potent tool we work with. In addition to exploring the full capacity of your lungs, you can literally change your mind and your mood with breath. Maintaining steady, rhythmic breathing on the yoga mat (and then applying it in all other facets of life!) is the key to staying present and clear.

3.) Boost Immunity – Yoga stretches, lengthens, twists, wrings, compresses, bends, and inverts the body in a very intentional way. The myriad of poses help to lower stress hormones (i.e. cortisol and others) that can compromise the immune system. They condition the lungs and respiratory tract which filter the air we breathe, while also stimulating the lymphatic system that cleans out toxins, and bringing fresh oxygenated blood to the organs. At the end of every practice, we take time to rest in deep relaxation. This is so our nervous system can absorb the fruits of our labor, and the parasympathetic nervous system can be activated.

2.) Calm the Mind – An amazing thing happens when we pull our awareness into the flow of breath & the depths of our body. We become more calm and steady, more focused and diligent. We spend so much time letting our minds dictate every single aspect of our lives—yoga asks us to drop all that and go within. When we do this we begin to notice we have the ability to control the content & speed at which the mind works. The moment of understanding the paradox…that by slowing the mind down we actually become able to accomplish more…is life-changing.

1.) Unity – The word yoga translates as union or connection. The practice, at its heart, is a process of bringing the body-mind into unity. All too often we navigate our world through separate, disjointed parts rather than a unified whole. When we move through our experiences from a place of unity, we begin to notice that we’re just one tiny piece of an interconnected, infinitesimal whole. This realization changes the way we perceive the world around us, and when we have the ability to change our perspective a whole new world of possibility opens up to us.

The magic of the practice is experienced most fully through specific sequences designed and guided by a trained teacher. This free 5 Day Yoga Challenge is the perfect place to begin. One class per day, each class guides you through the most foundational asanas (poses) and pranayama (breath work) of a yoga practice. If you have specific health issues or injuries please reach out and let’s work together to find ways to modify the practice specifically to your needs.

Follow me on Facebook @ Aham Love Yoga & SUP and on Instagram @brenrolls.

 

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