As a full-time pre-med student working multiple jobs and swinging back and forth between interning at a hospital and an art studio, I had grown to be accustomed to high levels of stress and accepted this as my new norm. This stress that started to take a toll on my mind, body and health became so abundant it was unbearable, so I had to find some way to relieve it all (stress is a dangerous, silent killer). I’ve always been one to love sports and fitness, any physical activity, but I didn’t really start to make it a lifestyle until recent months. The more stress I had to deal with, the better I felt working out and releasing all that negative energy. I no longer felt lazy to do physical work outs; I was motivated to go back for more. Not only that, working out releases endorphins, which are chemicals our brains secrete when performing physical activity or feeling a wave of emotions. They can reduce pain and produce a state of euphoria similar to those of harmful, illegal, or man-made substances. These endorphins have effects on all physiological functions in the body. They are what we can call our body’s natural medicine (biology is amazing really). Just get your body moving and you will benefit from these effects!
I must have produced enough endorphins to go around to every person in the world the first time I did yoga. Before I decided to take a yoga class at school, I had never really had any exposure to the practice despite my prejudgment that yoga was boring and useless. What a wake up call I had that very first day. It was life-changing! I couldn’t believe how great focusing on breathing and posing actually made me feel; my endorphins went on a field trip and ran wild. I was also amazed at what my body could do all along. Stepping out of my comfort zone was the best thing I could do for myself. I fell in love with a new lifestyle that day, and the more I went back, the more in love with it I fell.
In addition to yoga, I had also chosen to take a fitness course that was scheduled right before my yoga class. All that class really offered was time to work out in the gym. I loved it. After that, I could not wait to head to yoga for some relaxation. Prior to taking yoga for the first time, I was under the impression that it was pretty much a fancy word for nap-time with a few stretches here and there… sleeping on a flat mat with not even one pillow seemed the least bit appealing to me. Little did I know you really do have to use your body and muscles; you use them a lot by using your own body weight and you break a sweat doing so!
After just one class for the duration of a couple of hours, I immediately felt the positive effects I once thought were total BS. It was surreal; I felt like I had just awakened from a dream after performing the exercises. I felt calmer, and my stress level was reduced tremendously. My chest felt less tight and more open; my body felt lighter. I could have sworn I left the class floating on a cloud each time. It made me look forward to going about the rest of my long day at school that was usually dreaded. I just felt so good! A new positive energy emerged from within me and there was no controlling it. It made doing everyday things like reaching for things on top of the fridge or giving myself a pedi or carrying my heavy backpack to school so much easier. The improvements in my strength and flexibility I achieved week after week became addicting!
I couldn’t wait to come back the next week and the next and the next. I believe that if everyone did yoga, the world would be a much more peaceful and happy place. Of course, you’d have to go into it with an open and ready mind, just like anything else. If you’re forced, it probably won’t be as enjoyable and effective.
I am a science nerd, and I question the science behind everything. So I found a great, brief article that talks about the science behind yoga. Take a look, you might want to give yoga a try if you have yet to jump on board the yogi train 🙂
© Alaina Blay 2013
New York, NY, 2012