Why I Love Yoga!

If you’ve read my post about How I Passed the Bar on the First Try, then you know that I started practicing yoga about two years ago, shortly before I began studying for the New York bar. I was introduced to yoga by one of my dear friends and a fellow JD/MBA classmate, Justin. We both had a membership to the gym in our area, which offers yoga classes as a perk to being a member. At first yoga was very challenging for me and it honestly still is at times, but I love it so so much and recommend it to anyone who is looking to improve their overall wellness. So here are a few things that I LOVE about yoga!

It Helped Me Clear My Mind

People start practicing yoga for many different reasons. For me, I wanted an outlet from the daily grind of studying for the bar. What I didn’t realize is how much peace yoga would bring me, even if it was just while I was practicing. Practicing yoga requires you to block out a lot of the things that are going on outside of the studio and even inside your head. I would argue that a break from everything going on in the world, outside of you and within you, is necessary sometimes.

A lot of times I would walk into yoga having just finished watching a bar lecture or doing some practice problems and my mind would be racing, thinking about everything that I had just gone over. After about 3-5 minutes of class, I would be so focused on making sure that I was correctly positioning myself in the different poses that the bar and the outside world was the farthest thing from my mind. Also, one thing you will realize is that if your mind does start to wander and you are holding a pose that requires a lot of balance, you will quickly lose your balance in the pose because you have to focus and stay in the present! 

One thing that you learn in yoga to help clear your mind is to focus on your breath. I remember a very specific point while I was taking the bar exam where I was getting a little anxious and remembered the words of my yoga instructor telling us to pay attention and focus on our breath. At that point, I stopped in the middle of the exam to take a few very deep breaths and to refocus my energy. It really helped me power through the rest of the exam! 

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I Became Physically Stronger

I didn’t really start going to the gym until a couple years after I graduated from college. Before then, I was able to eat whatever I wanted and never work out without gaining a pound. Eventually, that started catching up with me and I had to change my eating habits and hit the gym. When I would go to the gym, I would often do some cardio and a good amount of weight lifting. The interesting thing is, I’ve never felt stronger than I do now that I also incorporate practicing yoga into my fitness routine. As I mentioned before, my intention of practicing yoga was more for mental wellness than physical wellness, so the fact that I felt myself getting physically stronger was an added perk!

I have weak arms, but I have noticed an improvement in my upper body strength since I began practicing yoga. All those planks and downward dogs really make a difference! I also noticed a huge difference in the strength of my core. A lot of yoga requires you to pay attention to your core, as it is the center of your body and where you can really get a hold of your balance. So your core is almost constantly engaged. I can now do more reps of ab and leg workouts because of my yoga practice! 

I Increased my Flexibility 

Before yoga (and even now when I take too long of a break from yoga) I find my body feeling very stiff. Yoga really helps you work out a lot of the kinks in your body and in your spirit. I have become a lot more flexible since I began practicing yoga, which has really helped with the flexibility in my back, legs, and hips. It feels amazing to get a niiiice gooood stretch in to loosen up your body!

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The Euphoric Feeling After Yoga

So you know that amazing feeling you get after a good, long stretch in the morning? Well imagine that feeling x 10! When I first started practicing yoga, I would walk in feeling anxious and sometimes defeated after a few hours of bar study. But after class, I would feel SO good, rejuvenated, and at peace and like I could conquer the world! Although I no longer have the stress of the bar hanging over me, it is still wonderful to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the day to get a good practice in. Practicing yoga allows you to have a minute to unwind and escape from all of the stresses of your life and just get on your mat and really put your all into focusing on mastering your poses. Sometimes that’s all we need to reset our day and recharge.

A lot of times your yoga instructor will ask you to set an intention for your practice for that class. I almost always set my intention to RELAAAAXXX and focus while in class and that’s exactly what I would do.  We really don’t realize how much of what we carry in our minds, we also carry in our bodies. Sometimes all we need to do is release those thoughts in our mind to really become one with our body and to release some of the physical tension we feel; especially in our necks and shoulders where we hold a lot of our stress. There are only a few feelings better than that feeling after a good yoga practice. I can almost equate it to leaving a good church service. You just feel light and free, like you can take on anything!

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Copyright of Blind Whino

You can do yoga ANYWHERE and FOR FREE! 

One thing I love about yoga is that you can pretty much practice anywhere that you can lay out your mat! There are also lots of opportunities to practice yoga for free. I live in D.C. and there are TONS of free yoga classes offered throughout the city. If you aren’t in D.C., just do a quick google search for free yoga classes in your city and I’m sure many will come up! I’ve made it to a few free yoga classes and one of my favorites is hosted at Blind Whino by Free City Yoga.  If you are ever in the area, check it out! It’s a cool space and a great, challenging class! The class is held every Wednesday at 6:30PM!

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Copyright of Yoga with Adriene

I also LOVE LOVE LOVE Yoga with Adriene on YouTube! Sometimes I don’t have time to go to a class or I’m just being lazy. Adriene has sooo many videos for almost anything you can think of – from Yoga for Stress to Yoga for Gardeners! Adriene is very chill, funny, and not too wacky or corny with her yoga lingo and references. Disclaimer: I would advise that you consult with your doctor and start off practicing yoga in a class to make sure you are doing the poses correctly to avoid injury, but after you are more comfortable in your poses, go forth and be great! At home, in a studio, in the park, on the beach, or anywhere else!

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Copyright of the Washington Post

Yoga is for EVERYONE

Long gone are the days where yoga is just for one demographic. Over the years, I have noticed more and more people of color becoming interested in yoga and it is so exciting! I am a huge fan of Trap Yoga at Khepera Wellness in D.C., which is black-owned. Trap Yoga is a power yoga class (which means you’re about to put in some werk) that incorporates trap music. I loved the class and recommend it to anyone who has some experience practicing yoga and wants to practice in a room where everyone doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a yogi. Khepera also offers a Black Girl Magic restorative class. I have not been able to catch the class yet, but I’m sure it’s amazing! I have also visited Embrace Yoga DC, which is black-woman owned and a great space to really get some good yoga in your system. Also, say hello to my absolutely favorite yoga instructor who helped me go from an infant yogi to a toddler yogi, Jessica Mahler. She’s the BEST.

I wanted to share just a few things that I love about yoga! It was hard for me to narrow it down to 5 major things, but you get my drift. Nothing I recommended here is sponsored by anyone except me. I just love to share the great things I discover!

If you have never practiced yoga and have wanted to try, just try it already! If you’ve never thought about practicing, maybe this post will help you reconsider.

Are you a yogi? If so, how long have you been practicing? Do you love or hate yoga? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Namaste.

xoxo Ashley

4 thoughts on “Why I Love Yoga!

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