The Side Effects of Yoga

Did you know the practice of yoga has plenty of side effects? The cool thing is, they’re all good for you. I’m starting to notice them re-emerging in my daily life.

This spring, around the beginning of April, I decided to recommit to my yoga practice. Since then I’ve been doing yoga at least 4 times a week, often more. I do my own routine to music, for the most part, though occasionally I’ll break out one of my yoga DVDs for inspiration. My goal was to get to the point where I’d feel good about taking classes again in the fall, at the intermediate level. I feel ready. My muscles are much more toned, and I’ve regained most of my flexibility. I’m still making steady progress.

So far I’ve lost a little bit of the weight I’d gained, but that wasn’t my main goal for my yoga practice. It’s helping me indirectly in that regard, though, because I’m now more tuned into my body and mindful about what I’m eating. I’ve returned to eating a mostly vegan diet, which feels best for my body. I’m still fine-tuning the eating part, and learning to let go of using food for comfort, but I credit yoga with the ability to notice all the subtle changes in my body and emotions.

I picked up another fun new way to move my body thanks to yoga – after years of trying, I can finally hula hoop! I love it, and it’s such great exercise. It was an analogy to the core strength needed in yoga (in the abdomen, around the solar plexus) that enabled me to finally “get” hooping. Not that I’m perfect at it, yet. Engaging my core and remembering to breathe are what help, though. Sure sounds like yoga!

Another positive side effect is that I’m more able to center myself. When emotions flow through me, I can more easily recognize that it isn’t a permanent state, but just what is happening right now, in this moment. I can focus and find my edge. Putting your attention on the breath is a great way to support waves of strong feelings, just as it supports a challenging hold.

Often in yoga practice we focus on surrendering to what is. That’s another side effect that I’ve carried off the yoga mat and into daily life. Lately I’ve been more able – and willing – to let go of the things I just can’t control, even during a busy and chaotic time. I’m surfing along through life, rather than clinging to the tiller.

These days, when I’m having a tough time, I’ve noticed that the things I crave are changing and shifting, too. Sure, I still desire chocolate or nachos after a rough day. But I also want a good yoga workout, to dance around to loud music, or to simply rest in quiet meditation.

I can live with these kind of side effects.

Tell me what you think!

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