How long until yoga changes your body?
Hurricane Sandy, the buzzing energy of NYC and the anxiety I held inside while pursuing an acting career brought me to the yoga practice in 2012. In the early 2000’s, I stumbled into a handful of yoga classes on occasion when finishing the master cleanse or following a random invite from a friend when I lived in Los Angeles. However, it wasn’t until I lived in NYC and that fateful Hurricane Sandy closed even the subways that my roommate and I went to our local yoga studio seeking to move our bodies and shift our mind away from the anxiety around us. The class was a 90-minute Vinyasa and Restorative blend. It is true that finding the right teacher, the right setting and receiving it at the right time directly affects our experience. I felt transformed! After class I told the instructor, “I want to feel like this all of my days!” I signed up for a monthly-unlimited membership and showed up to practice most days.
Initially the yoga practice was an escape for me. I didn’t realize how little awareness I had to the level of stress I was bottling up inside. I also didn’t fully acknowledge how easily I allowed myself to get triggered about 100 times a day. Making shapes with my body and breathing with intention became a tether to being in the here and now.
I believe I had a natural awareness of my body in space, however I began very much as a beginner. In a lot of ways, I still regard myself as a beginner.
Here’s a little insight into my reflections of the yoga practice from my experience as well as what I’ve observed from other yoga practitioners.
How long until yoga changes your body?
My initial response is your body changes with the very first intentional breath. Taking as little as one to four mindful breaths has the ability to not only alter your mind, but also your body. I often thing of the Viktor Frankl quote: “Between stimulus and response lies a space. In that space lie our freedom and power to choose a response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.” A mindful breath can have the ability to shift the way one feels in the body as well as in the mind. In the West, we often think about the physical yoga practice or the poses we make with our body. Practicing yoga poses can indeed make changes in your body—create more strength and flexibility. There is also a tremendous opportunity to incorporate breath, meditation and mindfulness practices to aid in alleviating any emotional or mental trauma being carried in the body. This is a life-long practice.
I began to see tremendous shifts after one year of consistent practice. When I began I would look around the room and regard with amazement some very flexible and strong practitioners upside down or doing very advanced arm balances and I would think to myself, “I’ll never be able to do that!” My teachers were so encouraging and would help guide me like they knew I was ready before I did. I started safely, getting comfortable with say headstand against the wall. I can see now that fear was certainly a factor in convincing me that I couldn’t do what I perceived to be challenging. I kept showing up anyway and the way I practiced began to change. I shifted from looking around the room to allowing my periphery to get blurry, focusing more inward. On occasion when I did look around I began to see inspiration rather than intimidation.
How many times a week should you do yoga to see results?
Practicing for as little as 5-10 minutes every day, one could see results in as little as one week. Shorter and consistent practices may yield greater results over time rather than a 60-minute practice once a week. The consistent practice may look like meditation one day, gentle stretches another day or moving quickly another day. I recommend carving time out in the morning before the to do list pulls you away. The morning practice has the capability of altering your mindset for your entire day. Start small. Say one minute to sit in silence or one minute to practice a balancing pose and build from there.
I see the yoga practice when running errands, having conversations, eating meals or self-care rituals. One day when I was in the check out line at the grocery store, a man cut right in front of my in line. I had the thought, “Wow, a different version of myself would be really pissed and debating confrontation, but I’d likely stand there staring at the back of his, willing him to turn around and realize his mistake. Ultimately, it would leave me angry the rest of the day. I would relay this story to anyone who would listen. And each time I would retell the story I would get angry all over again and kick myself for not saying something.” Yet here I stood somehow calm and completely at peace. Contrarily, I thought, “He must need to be somewhere. Go ahead.”
What happens to your body when you do yoga everyday?
The body is very intelligent and shapes to the movement or lack of movement we give it. When we move our body every day, we are releasing toxins, stimulating fresh oxygenated blood through our system, eliminated stress and anxiety pockets stored in the body as well as increasing our awareness of where our strength and flexibility lies. My hope is that this awareness in each of us can transfer to our yoga practice off of the mat. How can we practice self-care everyday for ourselves so we can exhibit strength and flexibility in all we do?
Yoga is so accessible now with online offerings on YouTube, Vimeo, iG and FB Lives and Zoom classes. It’s incredible to think that we can practice with any teacher throughout the entire world. What a tremendous opportunity! I really believe that yoga finds you in the right time, through the right teacher for you and in the right circumstance. Small practices have the possibility of a large impact for mind, body and soul.