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Yoga: Why Start Early?
Why do I wish I had started practicing yoga earlier in life? The answer to this question could be written in great length, but I will simplify it here in two words: stress management. Much of the main focus of day-to-day life during school years revolved around academic success and social acceptance. Overall, I accomplished these objectives, however often at the expense of my mental, physical and emotional health, and with little awareness or regard to negative impact on long-term wellness.
The practice of yoga (including breathing, mindfulness, postures and meditation) teaches one to take pause; the opposite of our busy, achievement-focused society. It encourages relaxation and reflection. With practice, the body and mind begin to slow down, functioning less in automatic reaction and more in contemplative response. Yoga provides a few moments away from the over-stimulating, fast-paced external world. This temporary removal of social, environmental, technological distractions provides time for our senses, nervous system and brain to rest, heal, focus and recharge. The result is the ability to better access and maintain calmer states, the ability to manage challenges with learned stress management techniques and tools.
Stress can present itself in many forms. Throughout my youth I was unable to incorporate healthy coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression, and the outcome was difficult relationships with food, alcohol and people. If I had given myself a few moments to breathe, gather my thoughts and rest the body and mind between studies, social engagements and even the cardiovascular fitness I favoured, I would have been granted some much-needed clarity during formative and challenging adolescent years. I also would have been developing valuable skills for future tasks and life experiences as the practice of yoga offers many cognitive and emotional benefits such as: focus, mental clarity, memory, concentration, decision making, stress reduction, mood-balancing, emotional regulation, self-awareness and feelings of well-being.
I invite you to participate in a short practice: taking a minimum of 5 minutes
- Find a quiet and peaceful environment or surrounding
- Remove all distractions - phones, music, television etc.
- Make your way into a comfortable position - either sitting or lying down
- Begin to relax the body - top of the head, forehead, jaw, shoulders, arms, legs, fingers, toes etc.
- Bring awareness to your breath - inhaling and exhaling
- Begin to steady, slow down and deepen your breath; further relaxing the body with each exhale
- Find comfort in the stillness, silence and ease of this practice
- Notice or sense your energy, emotions, spark, soul and heart
- Just breathe, just be…
Be present in this moment without attaching feelings or judgements towards your nature, temperament or experience. Whenever and wherever, with us at all times, is our breath, body and true self. These few moments of practice can bring about a peaceful awareness. As Ram Dass says “The quieter you become, the more you can hear”. Always remember: it is ok to be still and silence is a precious gift for the body and mind.
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Evonne Sullivan is a yoga teacher and speaker specializing in mental health and addiction recovery. She works with individuals, organizations and special events combining lived experience with trauma-informed teachings and trainings. For more information visit: evonnesullivan.com