Yoga. Fuck Yeah! (23 amazing benefits you stand to gain)
Are you searching for some calm among the chaos?
Originally published, Feb, 2016 on nickycullen.com
Yoga in the West continues to grow exponentially with studios popping up all over the shop. As yoga is great for combatting stress, this shouldn’t shock anyone considering the mental health epidemic we face today.
Did you know the average teenager today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s? — Psychology today.
That’s fucked with a capital F! As the pressures and pace of modern society continue to accelerate, resources remain limited for those in dire need of help. And don’t get me started on preventative measures.
THE RESULT OF THIS:
Let’s keep the champagne on ice. Loneliness is now marching it’s way up the chain of psychological disorders as we spend far too much time engrossed in our phones while pursuing connection.
Instead of living, we’re busy dying. The truth hurts I know. The best antidote would be for the world to wake up and for individuals to stop doing shit they can’t stand.
Unfortunately, nothing is ever that black and white. First of all, we need to survive. Secondly, we’ve been primed to conform and equipped with a weak mind and crap education to ensure this remains the case. So, when the shit hits the fan, we fall into a self-perpetuating cycle of pity, loathing, sabotage, and destruction.
The blame game is over. We’re all adults, and therefore, 100% responsible for our health. The onus is on you to put the work in to get the wheels back in motion if you’ve slipped off the tracks.
That being said, it’s beneficial to have a few tools at your disposal to help cope with unwanted anxiety while you figure it out.
WHAT DOES ONE DO WITH ALL OF THIS STRESS?
Stretch! The benefits of yoga are well documented, and combatting stress is just one. Immortality is another. Intoxication does wonders also, but, unfortunately, doesn’t encompass the longevity you stand to gain from yoga.
Incorporating a regular yoga practice can help restore balance and harmony within, right deep down in that precious little soul of yours. The same way fifty-cent wears a vest to protect against gunshots, yoga can protect you both physically and emotionally when dealing with the pressures and strains of modern society.
WHY SO SPECIAL?
Some might think the allure of a perfectly crafted butt thanks to Lululemon’s ‘Wunder Under Pant’ makes for a compelling case.
Call me crude, but if you go to seek out the above, don’t be surprised when you catch a glimpse of a bulging bollock nearby in a pair of sweaty briefs.
As in life, you can only truly appreciate joy with a little pain. Fortunately, with yoga, joy trumps pain. Otherwise, the pursuit of the Holy Grail in the form of “Zen” would be unattainable for most, and we’d be better off smoking crack.
That’s the Yin and the Yang of it, both bi-products and completely irrelevant when unveiling the true beauty of yoga.
A slipped disc in my back forced me to explore the world of stretching. Pilates was my gateway drug, with the first-class being an eye-opener, to say the least. As the teacher seamlessly held every pose, all I could do was look on in bewilderment. I honestly thought you’d have to be Wonder Woman to pull that shit off. Meanwhile, I was laid out like a dip-stick with about as much composure as I might have if I stepped into the octagon to fight Rhonda Rousey.
My anxiety was on high alert which only exacerbated the situation. Plus, my hips were fucking killing me—there’s A LOT of emotion hiding in those hips let me tell you! That was just the beginning. I vividly remember holding onto a ring to aid in stretching my hamstring. In doing so, I could only look on in disbelief as my leg began to convulse to the point where I thought it might be having an epileptic fit.
Fortunately, I dragged one of my friends along with me. To my delight, he too was experiencing similar tremors, inducing an all too familiar reaction within me — uncontrollable laughter. My tremors, however, were no laughing matter. I was basically lying on a mat in utter disbelief as my leg lost the complete plot while laughing hysterically at tweedle dumb beside me experiencing the same involuntary spasms.
He had the good sense not to return. However, the fighter within me knew I had to go back, but I was now predisposed to panic in a room that’s supposed to be symbolic of serenity.
I’ll never forget my first Shavasana (the lying down and chilling out pose). I lay there thinking my head would explode as I listened intently to everything I had avoided for several years at all costs. My mind cried out as I forced the bastard to pay attention to my anxiety and how it manifested throughout my entire body. It pleaded with me to sit up and even threatened to detonate, spraying my brains all over the mat if I didn’t oblige. We don’t get along, never have. I’m all for embracing anxiety but I’m not about to pretend I like it. This was my very definition of torture. And so, I persevered….
I’m possibly not selling it very well? It gets better I promise.
Fast forward a few months…
I had dipped into a few yoga classes which I enjoyed but not quite as much as pilates. This was specifically due to my teacher and a minor obsession with torture. However, that was all about to change. Intuitively, I knew yoga was going to play a major role in my life.
“I had an innate calling from the universe for an awakening. Just kidding — I was desperate as fuck!”
I must give props to the Irish bankers and politicians responsible for destroying our economy because in doing so, one of my nuts was forced to drop as I hopped on a plane to Vancouver in an effort to turn my life around. The first thing you’ll notice about Vancouver is its intoxicating beauty. After that, you’ll see health freaks everywhere walking around in Lululemon’s, drinking chai, and shopping for kale.
It was new age shit. A far cry from the world I left behind. Pilates classes were rare, and when I did find one, the dude teaching it made orgasmic noises throughout which pretty much terrorized my mind, forcing me to cut that shit out immediately. The yoga was different also — laughing at others’ misfortune was frowned upon, teachers read poems, spoke of ancient philosophies, and made you go “Ohmmmmmm” several times before kick-off.
Fuck it, though — we grow and evolve. Out with the old, in with the new. Yoga started to take over, and a love affair was born.
The benefits were plentiful. The more I practiced, the more I experienced. The only negative being that I was broke from constantly having to buy smaller pants. Seriously, if you want to lose weight, forget weight watchers, just do yoga!
Yoga has had a massive positive impact on my life. Below, you will find just a few benefits you can look forward to if you decide to embark on such a journey.
Shout out to the Yoga Journal for the bullets. Feel free to skim over them or if you wish, I’ve provided my own little narrative below…..
1. IMPROVED FLEXIBILITY
Obviously. You’re bending every which way, and in time you’ll find yourself in positions you didn’t think were humanly possible.
2. BUILDS MUSCLE STRENGTH:
3. BETTERS YOUR BONE HEALTH
I have no clue how healthy my bones were prior to yoga. I’m assuming like the rest of me, they were fucked. I do know that high-stress levels are associated with lower bone mineral density, so that makes sense.
4. DRAINS YOUR LYMPH’S AND BOOSTS IMMUNITY
It drains everything from your body. And it feels damn good too.
5. REGULATES YOUR ADRENAL GLANDS
The fuckers responsible for the secretion of cortisol and adrenaline. Basically, that feeling of pure terror experienced during a panic attack when you could diagnose yourself with cancer, stroke, heart attack, and every other deadly disease on the planet without having to consult Google. Anything that keeps those bastards in check is worthy of a knighthood if you ask me.
6. MAKES YOU HAPPIER
Unless you’re Bert or Ernie, your happiness index should rise!
7. FOUNDS A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Like a gateway drug, the results are profound, and to a point, exhilarating. A feeling of liberation will come over you along with a new appreciation for life, and surprisingly, AIR! One begins to look at other areas of their life where they can continue to improve their health. It’s an adventure, a fun one — roll with it.
8. RELAXES YOUR SYSTEM
No question. Sometimes I’d go to class in the depths of despair, and with the exception of a body part I don’t want to see making its way into my peripheral vision, I have ALWAYS left feeling more relaxed.
9. IMPROVES YOUR BALANCE
10. MAINTAINS THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
Not only does it maintain, it repairs. My current nervous system is Buzz Light Years ahead of my past one.
11. RELEASES TENSION IN YOUR LIMBS
Over the years, the tension my mind inflicted on my body was horrific—and they’re supposed to be buddies? The mind-body connection is very real. Stress originates in the mind—most of the time—and manifests in the body in the form of tension causing a self-perpetuating cycle of pain where eventually you don’t know who the fucks responsible. Either way, if left to manifest over time, it can be extremely destructive. Yoga can certainly hit the pause button and lighten the load, but, depending on the severity of pain due to emotional trauma, you should seek out treatment to address the psychological side of things.
12. INDUCES A DEEPER SLEEP
I used to lie in bed holding my head while simultaneously losing my mind. Good sleep was not a luxury afforded to me. I’m now exceptionally talented at nodding off.
13. GIVES YOU PEACE OF MIND
The calm after the storm. Before yoga, that storm was as destructive as mother nature makes them. Now, I look back and can’t believe how horrifying things were.*
*I did my work. And i’m still learning. It’s not all down to yoga. But yoga has had a major impact on my peace of mind and quality of life. And that’s not to say I don’t have shitty days either.
14. INCREASES YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
15. GIVES YOU INNER STRENGTH
I’ve made a lot of changes in my life. And right now, I’m pretty content with how it’s working out. Did yoga contribute? Absolutely.
16. CONNECTS WITH YOUR GUIDANCE
I could hazard a guess, but I’m not entirely sure I understand exactly what “connects with your guidance” means. So I won’t bother trying.
17. BENEFITS YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
There’s a million benefits we could all come up with from being less stressed. This is another.
18. HELPS YOU SERVE OTHERS
Sounds a little FENG SHUI! I hate all that love and serve shit. A lot of it’s bullshit. So many ruin it for the rest of us. I plead the fifth.
19. ENCOURAGES SELF-CARE
It is self-care. If you practice on a regular basis, it’s a natural progression that you will find yourself becoming more health conscious across all facets of your life. Careful not to go overboard with this one. Just saying.
20. USES THE PLACEBO EFFECT, TO EFFECT CHANGE
From believing everything was killing me to pretty much a feeling of immortality. I don’t think it’s a placebo effect as I believe I have this innate intuition within me that prevents me from being placebo’ed!
WHAT ELSE CAN I LOOK FORWARD TO?
21. REDUCED ANGER
Hard to believe I used to be an angry bastard, hey? God bless my parents, they deserve a knighthood. Thanks to yoga, and giving less of a shit in general (a skill that should also be taught in school), I can just laugh it off or pay little attention to all the nonsense going on around me. That’s not to say if some prick starts pissing me off for no reason, he won’t receive a slice of the middle finger. Baby steps… Fuck you!
22. REDUCED STRESS
Like you wouldn’t believe. Thank you to every teacher I’ve ever had.
23. IMPROVED CONFIDENCE
Confidence is a lifelong journey. Unfortunately, a panic disorder will obliterate it. It requires a lot of work to get a rhythm going again, and in my experience, shortcuts don’t exist. The only shortcut is when you take responsibility and decide you’re going to tackle this bastard once and for all. It stands to reason that with reduced stress and a healthier outlook, you will project greater confidence to the world. And that’s a pretty good place to start.
CHOOSING YOUR POISON
In an effort to keep this somewhat concise, I’ll lay it out for you on a spectrum. On one end, you have restorative where you use props and cushions to relax and breathe. On the other end, you have power where you’ll probably spend the majority of the class looking on in disbelief. Stuck in amongst the mix you will find yin, hatha, and flow. And, of course, naked yoga is now a thing because true liberation isn’t possible unless you get your bits and bobs out and bend over for all to see!!! I don’t get it. I don’t want to.Google it!
As with every political system, there’s always one party way out there on the left where you’ll find the Donald Trumps of this world. Enter Bikram—The Anti-Christ! My first experience left me pondering a question I’ve never pondered before—whether or not hell existed, and if so, had I just experienced it?
Many love Bikram. However, I highly recommend if you suffer from anxiety to stick to the more traditional styles.
My love for yoga clearly transcends deeper than a perky butt wrapped up in Lululemon’s. You will discover many benefits through breath work, movement, and meditation. The physical and emotional benefits cannot be ignored. If you suffer from anxiety, panic, or depression, I can’t recommend it enough. Once you immerse yourself in yoga, over time you will reap the rewards. It has to be worth a shot!
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Originally posted on nickycullen.com