Feel younger, taller and better
These are the words of one of my inspiring yoga students, and as soon as she said them, I was immediately motivated to put pen to paper.
When asked, "What did you not know before you started yoga, that you are surprised to learn now that you have been practising for over six months?"
She simply replied, "I never imagined that my body could do the things that I used to do when I was younger, that I can now do once more!"
Whether that's lifting up from a seated position into standing without using your hands, or rolling up from a lying down position into a seated position only using your abdominal muscles. We can tend to take these, what appear "easy", transitions for granted, but tell me, how many times have you automatically put your hands on the ground to assist you when moving from sitting on the floor into standing? Guesses are, always. I challenge you to think about not using your hands next time and see how your body responds, when all of a sudden it has to use other muscles that were previously reliant on your hands to do most of the heavy lifting.
Knowing your edge is another great asset that yoga consistently delivers. More often than not, I will guide my students into the set up for splits without mentioning the 's' word once, otherwise I would be faced with wall of panic-stricken faces and simultaneous thoughts of, "I can't do the splits!". Therefore I love moving into a pose without mention of its title, simply just with cues, and before anyone has realised, they are doing their version of the splits safely, with or without the assistance of blocks. The realisation hits that in fact their body has made its way into a rather challenging position, and at the same time, satisfactory feelings of accomplishment that they don't yet feel ready to leave the post just yet.
Or finding extra strength in your Chaturanga. Instead of snaking your way back up from a Cobra to Downward Facing Dog, hug your elbows in by your sides, engage your lower abdominal muscles and lift up through the mid-line of the body as opposed to allowing the arms to do all the work (check out my Chaturanga tutorial on the Activ Life Online Studio). This will ensure a straight spine, lower back protection, more abdominal strength, and less weight on your shoulders. After all, I think we could all do with lifting a little bit of weight off our shoulders! Give this a go and let me know how it feels for you.
The agility and strength, flexibility and confidence that just the three examples above can provide you with feeling younger, are worth more anti-wrinkle cream than money can buy. When you are next out with your friends, ask them about the last time they even thought about attempting the splits. My guesses are that nine out of 10 are likely to say 'never'. But why not? You body has been designed to move your hips in all sorts of directions, so why do we shy away from making the most of what out amazing bodies can do.
We only use 10 per cent of our brains, so imagine what percentage of the body is gathering dust?
Let this be a reminder that with proper guidance and safe cuing within your parameters, your body can most certainly do more than you think you are capable of.
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Anti-aging yoga secrets and Do I need to be flexible to practise yoga?