Yoga is a fantastic way to decompress your body and mental health, something we could all use as we start 2022! Daniela is our Patient Care Supervisor at VTFC and a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. She recently completed her 500-hour teacher training under the mentorship of Maryam Ovissi and Heather Hagaman at Beloved Yoga Studio in Reston, VA. So what are Daniela’s top 5 favorite benefits of practicing yoga?
Connect to Your Breath: Our breath is our lifeforce; in yoga, we refer to breath as Prana. The practice of yoga involves intentional breathing and initiates the physical movement of our bodies. Yoga encourages us to become more conscious of our prana patterns. Some common patterns include holding the breath or having shallow breathing. During yoga, we are guided to take smoother and deeper breaths by activating our diaphragm. This is where the magic happens. Through conscious breathing, our awareness begins to shift to our nervous system and we begin to notice where we are holding tension.
Increase Body Awareness: Asanas, in yoga, refer to our physical postures. During our asana practice, we become aware of the different sensations in our bodies as they move through different shapes. Have you ever stood on one foot and noticed your balance feels wobbly? Or maybe you notice stiffness in your shoulders while moving a certain way? Understanding where tension and instability lies in our body helps us create a practice that increases our body awareness. Yoga encourages us to explore the pose by feeling the different sensations in our body and making subtle adjustments to experience an individualized practice.
Build Muscle Strength: When we think of yoga movement, we often think about the flexibility that certain poses hold. While we can build flexibility with yoga, it also involves strengthening through movement. By safely building strength in our muscles, we increase our stability and decrease our risk of injury. For example, when we are in a tabletop position we engage our core by hugging our belly button towards our spine. We can then further increase our core engagement by lifting our arm to our ear and then lifting the opposite leg to hip height. Using the weight of our bodies with gravity, yoga can target specific muscles and build strength.
Reduce Stress: How many of us feel stress on a daily basis? Between work, home responsibilities, and personal goals, we can end up feeling burnt out. Stress can be felt in the mind and body. When our bodies experience stress, it activates a response in our nervous system that creates muscle tension, increases heart rate, and constricts the muscles in our digestive system. This is our body’s way of protecting us from what we sense is a threat. Prolonged stress causes holding patterns in our bodies and yoga provides tools such as breathing and body awareness that can shift our nervous system to a calmer state.
Build Self-Compassion: Yoga is not about getting into certain physical postures or being bendy. Rather, yoga is about rediscovering yourself through building a compassionate inner voice. When we approach yoga with a curious mind instead of a judgmental one, we begin noticing the mental and physical patterns that we hold within ourselves. Our self-compassion begins to increase as we start meeting ourselves where we are in our practice, and not where we assume we should be. Through compassion, we learn to be patient and loving with our bodies and thoughts. We learn to view our practice as a form of self-love and not something to cross off our to-do list.
Daniela Fagel: Daniela is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. She recently completed her 500-hour teacher training under the mentorship of Maryam Ovissi and Heather Hagaman at Beloved Yoga Studio in Reston, VA. Daniela draws inspiration from her teachers, students, and mentors.
Daniela believes in the transformational process of rediscovering and harmonizing oneself through yoga. She believes that we all hold innate wisdom within ourselves and can learn to access that wisdom through the teachings of Yoga. Daniela’s classes center around the cultivation of self- awareness and self-compassion–a vision that inspires playful creativity and healing through the art of breath and movement.