Much more than you may think!
As a relatively new yoga practitioner, I have grown to love yoga. Over the past year, I have practiced yoga in more places than I ever would have imagined: a traditional yoga studio (Cleveland Yoga), an old ballroom at the Cleveland House of Blues (East 4th and Yoga), Summer Solstice at Edgewater Beach (ZENworks Yoga), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (BelieveInCLE), an apartment rooftop overlooking Downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie (Harness Cycle and Innerbliss Yoga), a Costa Rican bed and breakfast rooftop (Cariari Bed & Breakfast), and on a paddle board on the Kohala Coast (Fairmont Orchid Hawaii). At each location and with each new instructor, I have learned different yoga poses and inspirational messages, and have appreciated my surroundings from new angles (literally and figuratively). When you think about it, how often do we spend looking at the sky while posing upside down?! Yoga encourages us to do just that!
I have always heard about the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga, but it wasn’t until I started practicing regularly that I really understood the benefits. On Friday, my understanding expanded to a whole new level. I attended the MIX at the Cleveland Museum of Art (occurs the “first Friday evening of each month for an ever-changing mix of art, music, and mingling”), which featured Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the world’s first exhibition about yoga’s visual history. This opened my eyes to the incredible history of “yoga’s meaning and transformations over time, including its entry into the global arena; yoga’s goals of spiritual enlightenment, worldly power and health and well-being; and the beauty and profundity of Indian art.” I was fascinated to learn how the practice has transcended continental borders and has been passed on generation after generation, becoming a globally respected form of art and spirituality.
Exploring the exhibit about yoga’s history, I couldn’t help but reflect on the power of yoga and all I have learned by practicing yoga over the past year. Besides yoga’s more obvious benefits of increased flexibility, core strength, and meditation, I have found there to be three key lessons. Yoga teaches us:
- Mindfulness. By practicing yoga, we are better able to understand ourselves and think internally. The meditative breathing and balancing poses encourage us to be aware of our senses and to live in the present. In a world of distractions and constant stimulation from connectivity (cell phones, Internet, social media, etc.), it is easy to forget about ourselves and how we truly feel. Yoga helps us slow down and spend time reflecting on who we are.
- Unity. No matter where we practice yoga in the world, we will experience similar (if not the same) yoga poses. I was comforted by this realization when I took a yoga class in Costa Rica. This was my first experience taking a class in Spanish–and while I was in a completely different country and communicating in my second language, the course provided the same benefits. Yoga reminds us that we can all be united in spirituality
- Empowerment. Yoga reminds us that we are capable of much more than we think, if we just focus and breathe. I have never felt more inspired from yoga until I attended Power Yoga classes at Cleveland Yoga. Yoga balances challenge and relaxation, allowing us to create our own practice and modify poses whenever we would like. Listening to uplifting music, hearing inspiring words from an instructor, and pushing our limits through new poses leaves us feeling empowered after each practice.
With each yoga practice, I leave with a new mindset and more inspiring life lessons. If you haven’t already, I encourage you try to yoga, as you will be able to learn more about yourself and a practice that has inspired others to find peace in their lives for hundreds of years.