Unfortunately, although many of us understand the importance of physical training – think popular endurance races that send us over walls and through muddy waters – too many of us don’t know how to rest or try the movement practices needed to maximize the mind’s growth opportunities.
Such practices can train our bodies, but mindful movement does more by helping us with both emotional regulation (being able to think and not just react) and upper level cognition (focus). These brain functions comprise our working memory capacity, and interestingly, we can improve that capacity with the use of some well-studied, relatively simple exercises.
We hear from students all the time that they came to yoga on accident, stressed-out athletes looking for something fun to try, something new to master, and something to help bend unyielding muscles a bit more easily.
Often, what our students find on the mat changes their lives entirely. Yoga can become a practice that is about more training, something we can practice and study while joyously never “mastering.” One of the best, validated ways to move your brain to a restorative state is through mindfulness-based stress reduction, or – as it is more commonly known – yoga.
Yoga Teachers: Authenticity, Healing, Resilience
Our bodies were made to move in constant search of unity with our minds and spirits. It’s a natural stillness that those who have felt it love, pursue, and fight to regain if lost. The first person who helps you find coping tools on the yoga mat probably won’t be famous or fancy – it will likely be a local yoga teacher making $15 per class at a studio selling Group-ons for cheap memberships. She may have a kindness in her voice, a willingness to place a gentle, assisting hand on tight shoulders, and she will encourage and welcome when many poses still seem scary and out of reach.
Why does supporting my local teacher matter?
To get really good at teaching yoga, one has to love it personally as well as publically. Training takes time and money, and too many great teachers aren’t able to sustain themselves teaching full-time. You can help ensure that you have access to great, life-changing instruction by supporting the classes, videos, and retreats your favorite local teacher hosts.
How can I train myself?
You don’t have to run to an island somewhere to start experiencing more calm – it’s something you can easily make part of your day.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Find a teacher whose class makes you smile each day. Maybe this happens in a gym or studio, maybe it happens online. Check the Gather Yoga teacher platform to see who is out there for you at home, while you travel, or anywhere!
2. Ritualize your practice by making that class a regular part of your day. Prioritize this opportunity for growth.
3. Track your progress. How did you mentally feel week 1? Week 2? Write down wins so you can remember them. A great journal might work for you.
4. Continue your practice daily.
5. Breathe & smile.
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance,” here.