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  • Tracey L. Kelley

Moving Beyond the Physical

It's easy to consider yoga simply as a physical practice, because movement is our first point of entry to the benefits of yoga. A message that resonates with me from my master teacher and others is when we categorize yoga simply as a workout or as an extended stretch between workouts, we're missing out on a variety of benefits.

I encourage students to visualize and write down non-physical benefits they receive from regular yoga practice. Appearing once a week isn't the key to unlocking this potential; it's trusting that consistency and repeated observation of practice provides deeper meaning to not just how you move or exercise, but also lasting effects on who you are and who you can become.

And it's true: many of these benefits are set into motion because of the movement, which is why consistency is important. For example, movement calms the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing your body's need to flee/fight. So many of your body's primary functions are relaxed with this prompt, and thus, other aspects of wellness are revealed.

I don't ask students to tell me what they feel these benefits are, because they're personal. I suggest that once these benefits are written down, put that piece of paper in plain sight to add to practice inspiration. But I'll share with you that when I settle onto my mat regularly 4-5 days a week, I often feel less anxious, more focused, more certain of my purpose, and have a greater ability to set aside my ego and be more attentive to others. I didn't feel any of this practicing once a week.

Yoga has also helped me in a variety of other, more profound ways much too detailed to post here, but if you want to join me for a cup of tea and a lengthy conversation, we can share stories!

So yes, our erratic Iowa weather is much more pleasant, and you want to be outside. Plan ahead for yoga days (yes, plural!) and outside play days! Or do both on the same day (gasp)! Recognize that your yoga practice enhances not only your physical pursuits, but your mental and emotional abilities as well.

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