Those of you who know me (or follow me on instagram) will probably already know that over the last few years I’ve fallen in love with yoga. So much so that I’m dreaming of doing my teacher training in the hopefully-not-too-far-away-distant future and spending the rest of my days teaching it. My love of yoga has already inspired me to ditch my job and start working for online yoga company Movement for Modern Life so I can start a career into the yoga world. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little bit obsessed, but I can’t help it – yoga just makes me happy. I might have become one of those people who will use any excuse to start talking about it to whoever I meet (at house parties, when strangers talk to me in the street…the list goes on) but it’s just because I can’t help wanting to spread the yoga love in case it could change someone’s life in the same way it’s changed mine. If you haven’t practiced before or really got into yoga then that might sound a little bit extreme, but if you have then chances are you kinda know what I mean! Either way, I was asked by bookyogaretreats.com to share why I would recommend going on a yoga retreat, so I thought it was about time I wrote about my thoughts on the subject to hopefully inspire some of you to try it for yourselves! So here goes…
1. It’s good for you
It might sound like a no-brainer, but of course my first reason is that it’s good for your health. First off, it’s a far better work out than it may look, and than many people assume – building core strength, muscle and flexibility. Yoga’s got a bad rep for being too girly or ‘not real exercise’, but the strength and fitness it builds is amazing. I went to a personal trainer recently and he was amazed that I was as fit as I am just from practicing yoga. It’ always funny to see someone who thinks they’re a fitness buff go to their first yoga class – they might have done a ton of ‘arm days’ at the gym, but they’ll soon feel like a weakling once they start trying to use their own bodyweight in a yoga class! But what I love most about the practice is that it focuses on what’s really good for your body, not for the sake of vanity but for your actual health and wellbeing. The physiology of yoga fascinates me and I love learning more about how different stretches, inversions and poses can benefit not just how healthy you look on the outside but how healthy your body is on the inside too. And by inside, I mean not only your muscles, lungs and heart that you might generally associate with exercise, but even your other organs. Yoga works to detoxify, cleanse and rejuvenate the real inner workings of your body, essentially refreshing and keeping youthful your inner organs as well as your muscles and cartilage. If you need proof, just look at any one in the older generation who practices yoga – their flexibility, strength and energy is just amazing!
2. It makes you happy
Again it might sound silly, but the feeling that practicing yoga can bring really is like no other. We all know that exercise boosts our mood with endorphins but there’s just something about yoga happiness that is more. Yoga and meditation is renowned for being effective at battling stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia – it’s almost like a medicine! I think it’s something to do with the way it helps you to still your mind and get out of your head for a while, focus on your body and breath, oxygenate your body with deep breathing and be in the present moments – something that is so hard in our non-stop social media lifestyle these days!
3. It gives you body confidence
I can’t explain to you how much more content I’ve become with my body since I stated practicing yoga. I don’t think I necessarily even look that different, but my mindset has completely changed! I think a lot of that comes from the fact that yoga is just about your body – everything is done with your own bodyweight and strength and it makes you take notice of and appreciate how your body is so much more. There’s a really feeling of satisfaction when you hold a pose and realise this is all you and you strength. It definitely helps to create a lot of body appreciation, that’s for sure! As a teenager I was never content with my body, feeling uncomfortable or bloated and just generally ‘not good enough’ and it shames me to admit how often I’d tell myself I was looking ‘too fat’ or put myself down for not being skinny/pretty enough. I always felt like I had to dress up to look good or put on makeup to go anywhere. Part of it might be down to just getting a bit older,but these days I am so much happier in my own skin. It doesn’t bother me to wander around without makeup (zits and all) and spend the day in jeans and tshirts, yoga pants and fitness wear or go to the shops wearing my most disgusting tracksuit bottoms and jumper combo! Likewise, I don’t spend time looking at and critising my body. Yes, I still have my body hangups occasionally (who doesn’t?!) but I don’t focus on them in the same way. We all have days where we feel more bloated, or weeks where we maybe eat or drink a little too much and notice the fluctuation in how it affects our bodies, but my mindset now is just one of acceptance – yes, I might not feel that I look my best right now but it will change. I think that’s definitely a mindset that has been cultivated by yoga – the acceptance of what the present moment is, noticing how you feel and just accepting it rather than fighting it. I know that on my off days all I need is a bit of yoga practice, a run or a few days of healthy eating in order to feel great again, and that means it’s so much easier for me to let go and not worry about how my body might feel!
4. It’s not about ‘should’
I can’t help that feel like the ‘fitness’ culture isn’t always actually a healthy one. Mainstream fitness these days always seems to be about pushing yourself, working harder, feeling the burn, etc, etc. It’s a fitness mentality that to me seems to be built on negativity. As in, ‘you’re not doing enough, you need to work harder’ or ‘you don’t look good enough, you have to do this HIIT class/drink this protein shake, etc etc. It’s all about looking good rather than feeling good. I don’t believe that fitness, strength and all that jazz have to be built through constantly forcing yourself to do something. Yoga isn’t like that at all and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that I love it (and the hardest to describe, but I’ll try) It’s all about finding your balance. The edge between not working and working, not stretching and over stretching. Yes, yoga is hard and sometimes you do have to push yourself mentally to get over a sense of fear that you can’t do something, or to trust your body in a pose, or to strengthen yourself to hold a shape, but it’s a different sense of the word. Rather than ‘push’, it’s more like ‘focus’. There’s no should in yoga – there’s no level you should be at, or poses you should be able to do. It’s not about being able to do the same thing as the person next to you in class, or touching your chin to your shin, or being able to do a handstand. Everyone is different and that’s what yoga celebrates and encourages. It’s about being in tune with your body and discovering for yourself what your body needs and what it can do. Yes, it will probably improve over time, but that’s not the aim. Everyone is capable of different things and finds different things difficult, and your capabilities will change every time you practice depending on how your body is that day. Yoga is about noticing that and just doing what you need, rather than what you think (or someone tells you) you ‘should’. It probably sounds like that doesn’t make for much of a workout, but trust me it does. It’s just a different kind of workout, where your mind will be relaxed instead of screaming at you to pump harder!
5. Going on a yoga retreat
More than anything, for me yoga is an exploration. An exploration into yourself, your thoughts, your body and it’s capabilities, an exploration into the practice, the theory of yoga and it’s spirituality. An amazing way to deepen this exploration is by going on a yoga retreat. I’ve been on two over the last two years (review here) and it’s safe to say I want to go on a yoga retreat every year forever, please, if I can! Until you’ve been on one, you don’t realise how amazing that kind of immersion into yoga can make you feel. From the daily practice, to learning more about what yoga means, to being cleaned with healthy food and thoroughly looked after by the people who run these things, a retreat is a complete escape from the world and a rare opportunity to dive into yourself. If you haven’t practiced before (or only practiced a little) it’s an amazing intro into something that would hopefully become a lifelong love, and if you already do yoga it’s the perfect way to take your practice to the next level. Honestly, a retreat is such an enriching experience and I can’t recommend them enough! There are so many different options now too if a pure yoga retreat is a bit too in depth for you, such as yoga and surfing retreats, yoga skiing holidays, yoga & cookery trips as well as plenty that also involve spa treatments for extra pampering! To find out more about how a yoga retreat could change your life, see some of the options on offer or to book one for yourself check out www.bookyogaretreats.com
This post was sponsored by www.bookyogaretreats.com. All opinions are my own!