On May 15th I was rear ended while at a complete stop on a ramp in Pittsburgh and as a result I suffered my 5th concussion and injuries to my back and neck. It was no surprise that the doctors told me to stop working out and rest my brain completely. I did so for about the first 3 weeks after the accident and then I started adding some light yoga to my routine. I only did it a few days a week at first and most of the time I felt like it helped stretch out my neck and back and even calmed my mind.
But it wasn’t until about 10 weeks after the accident that I started really getting serious about Yoga and I’m so happy that I did. Not only did Yoga give me a way to release stress but it also helped me maintain and improve my flexibility and strength while I was not allowed to workout.
Yoga continues to help me as I recover from my brain injury but it’s just not for people who suffer from concussions. Here are 9 reasons you should start practicing Yoga today!
1. Relieves Stress
Everyone deals with stress in different ways but there are a few techniques that have been proven to help relieve stress like deep breathing and meditation. When you step onto the Yoga mat and commit to focusing on your breath and postures you enter that zone of letting everything else go and just focusing on the now. It also doesn’t hurt to step away from your phone and to do list for an hour or so.
2. Improves Flexibility
Yoga poses practiced regularly over time will help improve your flexibility just like regular stretching does. The great thing about Yoga is that there are variations for each level of flexibility so there are no limitations to getting a good stretch even for beginners.
3. Yoga Is For Every Body Type
Tall, short, skinny, curvy or whatever your body type is, it doesn’t matter. Yogis come in all different shapes, sizes and skill levels. Just show up at the class or on your mat at home, take a deep breath and modify if you need to. It’s easy to see improvement through yoga the more you practice.
Plus size PCOS I lived in such fear as we started to lose everything we owned and ended up a homeless family of 4. When I started on my journey to healthy and fit, this is exactly where we were. Sometime ago I developed a fear of the ocean. I went from being brave to being filled with so much fear, abandonment, rejection, depression… My weight was not what caused this… It was a symptom of what lied beneath. I would spend hours in a day, sitting on the edge of the couch, knees spread, elbows to knees, hands clasped in a death grip waiting for the next shoe to drop, then the next, then the next. They all fell as I "predicted"… I remember when we had nothing left we were at the beach and I kept walking out into the water. In a blue 2 peice bikini at 330 lbs… Arms stretched wide and face turned up to the sun. It was freeing. I kept doing this each time we went. It was when I had nothing left that I gained instances of being brave. Not being afraid of what lies beneath, the things I could not see or have control over. Getting on a paddleboard was too much when I feel in the water (a couple of years back) and the panic and anxiety set it. I almost wanted to just let myself sink. 330 lbs I pulled myself up onto that paddleboard. Now, as I work on getting to my next level in my life… No longer homeless… Symptom free of my health issues…. Gaining tools through therapy EMDR… 80 lbs lighter… I am so unafraid of what lies beauty that I choose to view the world upside down and giggle when I fall into the water. I know it's just going to be okay…. It all has been okay. Be brave!
*Coach Tulin is a plus size fitness motivator that I follow on Instagram and she pushes the limits all of the time by trying new things. Check her out for more motivation!
4. Strengthens and Tones Muscles
You don’t always need weights to build muscle. Your own body weight is all you need to strengthen and tone up through Yoga. Ever try doing 120 push ups in a single workout or hold a squat for minutes at a time? Some Yoga workouts can bring that type of intensity, it all depends on what you are interested in and you have the freedom to choose your Yoga style.
5. Prevents Injuries
It’s no secret that being flexible and having strong muscles around your joints prevents injuries and practicing Yoga will give you the added flexibility and strength you need to prevent injuries no matter what your sport is.
6. Pushes Your Limits
Yoga is perfect form of exercise to track improvements and set new goals for yourself. With tons of variations of each Yoga pose the limits are pretty much endless to what you can do as you continue to improve your strength and flexibility. You may look at a photo of someone doing something that appears to be an impossible Yoga pose one week and then surprise yourself after a few practices and be able to do that same pose yourself! Yoga is all about self improvement and pushing your limits. When you reach those mile stones that you thought you may never reach, the feeling is pretty great!
7. Energy Booster
I find that if I do Yoga early in the day I have a more productive day as a whole and I feel more energized and motivated throughout the day. This is because the breathing techniques used during Yoga can lower blood pressure, increase cardiovascular efficiency and aid in relaxation. Also, the stretching and poses used in Yoga practice awakens your body and mind setting you up to have a great day!
8. Allows Creative Freedom
Yoga is like art in a way that you don’t have to necessarily follow the rules. Instead you can make your own! If you are new to Yoga I suggest following along to an instructor but as you advance you will learn to come up with your own Yoga flows and use your creativity to develop your own style.
9. Improves Balance
Every try standing on one foot, stretching the other one back and then bending down and touching your toes? It’s harder than it sounds! But with a little yoga practice you will be able do to it in no time! Through a variety of Yoga poses it’s easy to improve your balance. By holding yourself up on one foot or doing arm balancing poses you learn to control your own body weight and push your balance to the limits. After my accident I was not even able to stand on one foot for more than a few seconds with my eyes closes. My balance was the worst that it’s ever been in my life but I credit Yoga for helping me build my balance back.
Yesterday I had a great day where I got to relax and practice yoga by the river but today turned out to be a bad headache day. The headaches come and go on the bright side, I'm excited to be getting a lot of my balance back! After my accident I couldn't even stand on one foot with my eyes closed at physical therapy for more than a few seconds. 12 weeks later I can hold a tree pose and crow pose. Yoga is not only helping me gain balance, flexibility and strength back during my concussion recovery but it's also providing a way for me to reach new goals and "personal bests" which is great for me mentally as well. #LittleSteps
If you are looking for tips for where to start, try hitting up a local Yoga class, pick up a Yoga DVD or follow along on YouTube. I’ve personally never been to a Yoga class before I’ve just been mostly self taught and followed YouTube videos and a Yoga DVD. These are some of my favorite Yogis to practice along with:
Shiva Rea – She is my favorite Yoga Instructor that I’ve come across so far! She is extremely experienced, amazing to watch and easy to follow along to. I suggest getting one of her DVDs.
Adriene Mishler – She is my favorite Youtube Yogi! She posts a ton of videos on Youtube that you can follow along to for free. Whether you are looking to relieve stress, aid in digestion or stretch a tight back, Adriene has a Yoga routine for just about anything!
Jillian Michaels – If you know anything about Jillian Michaels you won’t be surprised that her Yoga inspired workouts are tough! Choose Jillian when you are looking for more of a sweat dripping Yoga style workout.
If you are completely new to Yoga don’t be intimidated by all of the fancy words for poses. With practice you will start to pick up on all of the names for everything and not have to look up at a screen or your instructor as much. I would say I’m still a beginner when it comes to Yoga but what I love most about it is being able to try something new and setting new goals each time I step on the mat.
Do you do Yoga? What do you love most about it?
XOXO – Abbey