• By: OLM Staff

Yoga: On and Off the Mat

Yoga is a discipline that has existed for millennia in India, and more recently has become popular in North America. While many people are initially drawn to the practice in search of a ‘yoga butt’, they commit to the practice once they experience physical and mental well-being. The traditional system boasts a multitude of benefits, such as lower blood pressure, increased lean body mass, heightened self-awareness, deeper breath, and a serene mind.

My introduction to yoga was not easy and adapting to the discipline was a slow process. The first class I ever attended was offered at 6:00 a.m. It was a hatha class that promised a positive start to the day. However, I remember feeling extremely frustrated by the lack of aerobic exercise. Considering I had dragged myself out of bed that early, I felt I deserved a workout. Unfortunately, my negative reaction prohibited a deeper experience of the practice. The beauty of yoga is that it works on such a deep level so that not all the benefits are felt immediately. I left the studio angry and close-minded that morning, but I had yet to be enlightened.

A year later I decided to revisit the promise of physical and mental prowess and attended another yoga class. I fell in love. Perhaps it was my mood, the studio, the time of day or the teacher’s style but it felt completely different from my first class. I started attending class regularly and quickly witnessed the multitude of positive changes. I felt lighter, healthier, more toned. But more significant than the physical improvements, were the mental ones. I felt calmer and began to live in the moment, if only for a few minutes at a time, instead of always stressing about the future. Today, seven years later, I teach yoga and embrace its teachings every day.

Off the mat, yoga can teach you a sense of detachment from expected outcomes. In everyday life, this may translate into feeling less agitated when trapped in line at the grocery store, rushing less in traffic or considering those around you. Once a regular practice is founded, the senses become more acute and your newly-opened mind allows you to notice your surroundings in a way that was not possible before.

Even personal finances can improve as a new sense of non-attachment helps you realize that you are not defined by material possessions. You may begin to relish a minimalist lifestyle, buying only what you need and appreciating what you have. Instead of constantly yearning for material goods – falsely believing that your next purchase will make you happy – yogic philosophy teaches the value self-worth.

Ottawa is filled with established yoga studios that offer classes to suit all levels of experience, and host workshops for those who choose to deepen their practice. Some reputable studios to consider are:  Rama Lotus Yoga Centre, Santosha, Upward Dog Yoga Center, PranaShanti Yoga Centre, Blue Crane Wellness & Yoga, Orleans Yoga Shala, Mountain Goat Yoga, and Blue Bamboo Yoga among many others. Regardless of the venue you choose to attend, be sure to practice under the supervision of a certified teacher who can guide you through any necessary modifications to suit your body type and level of experience.

No matter your motivation, yoga is a balanced system of physical, mental and spiritual health. It allows you to under-achieve, as well as find happiness and health on or off the mat. The deeper lessons of yoga teach themselves once a regular practice is established. The lifestyle seeps into your habits.