Pauline Schloesser, Ph.D., Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, IAYT Yoga Therapist
In our fast-paced world of screens, endless distractions and multi-tasking, even younger adults need ways to find balance and navigate the challenges of life’s stresses. Yoga is an ancient practice that offers physical, mental, emotional, and even social benefits.
1. Stress Relief and Stress Prevention
The twenties are often marked by particular stresses—college course work, job pressures, loneliness and fitting in. At the same time, we may be trying to find a partner in life, or at least a significant other. There has to be time for self-care instead of just responding to the needs of others, whether they are professors, supervisors, or mates. Yoga provides a sanctuary for self-care, mental and physical balance and quietude. From this space of inner quietude and self-knowledge, we can approach the challenges we meet with more confidence and calm.
2. Physical Strength, Flexibility, and More
Did I mention that a regular yoga practice brings physical benefits? Even in our twenties, we start to get sedentary and achy. We sit at a desk looking at a screen for hours at a time. We bend our necks downward to look at our phones continuously. Few of us have jobs that involve a full range of movement in the arms, legs, trunk, and spine. Imagine what it would feel like to be charged with fresh energy of breath and blood circulating and pulsing through all parts. It’s a feeling of complete renewal. No more stiffness, weakness, or sluggishness. Relief from constipation.
You probably think—oh, but any exercise will do that for me! It’s true, even a daily walk of 45 minutes or so will be great for you. But it won’t lubricate your spine, stretch your hamstrings, take away the nagging tension in your neck and shoulders. For that you need a practice that is going to open all the joints of the body.
3. Mental Well-being
Of course, yoga does more than tone and stretch and strengthen muscles, bones, and joints. Yoga is a practice that engages the mind. For example, If you don’t pay attention to the weight distribution in your feet, you’ll lose your balance. In this example, the intense concentration of the mind in the feet while performing other actions with the legs, trunk and arms, has a cleansing effect on the mind. The mind is no longer preoccupied with social media, test scores, to-do lists, because it is completely absorbed in the body and the breath.
4. Improved focus and concentration.
Mental concentration and focus require practice. To improve our ability to concentrate, we need to eliminate distractions and home in on one thing. This naturally happens during asana practice. We don’t have music playing or screens blaring in the studio. We listen to clear instructions and our own breath. We are focused and relaxed at the same time. This mental cleansing is one of the greatest benefits of a yoga practice. Not only have you found stress relief, but you have also improved your ability to concentrate and maintain a steady mind.
5. Cultivation of Good Habits
Discipline, dedication, and commitment do not come naturally, yet they are key to a stable and happy life. If we haven’t developed discipline in our teens, we need to establish good habits of self-care in our twenties. Making time to come to class every week amounts to the establishment of a healthy habit.
6. Social Connection and Support
An Iyengar Yoga class is a completely different environment than a bar, a party, a family gathering, or even any other kind of yoga class. An Iyengar Yoga class is a quiet and formal learning environment in which we focus on our own embodiment. However, when you see the same people every week, there is a beautiful connection can happen quite naturally. I remember before my husband and I were married, we’d go out for dinner after class and talk about what we did in class, what was difficult, or new, or easy, and often giggle about things we thought were funny. Because you can’t have casual talk in class, there is much to discuss afterward.