Close your eyes and breathe in. That last load of laundry can wait. Your boss can’t get you here. All your stress and anxiety isn’t allowed. For once, nothing is important. The only priority is clearing your mind.
Open your eyes and breathe out. See your body fold in new ways; experience the foreign stretches. Stand up and feel it - the energy. Not some coffee-induced, bound-to-crash-soon-energy, but some authentic, slept-like-a-baby-energy.
It's always difficult to nurture our mental and physical health simultaneously; one always seems to get the upper hand. Towards the end of high school, I was the most "fit" I had ever been. I worked out often and was in good shape. Looking in the mirror, I was happy with my body, but I wasn't happy. It took me a while to realize that I was repressing my problems and never taking the time to address anything.
It wasn't until a friend of mine showed me yoga, an exercise that encompassed both the serenity of meditation and the fulfillment of exercise, that I started to actually like the person within my body. That's not to say that yoga is some majestic discipline that will rid us of suffering, but it certainly has many restorative qualities. There is no way to express how much mediation, and not medication, can help anxiety. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, the breathing exercises from yoga compose me far better than any anti-depressant ever has.
In Hinduism, Yoga is the process of reversing the regular flow of energy, through breathing and meditation, to join an individual's spirit with the Universal Spirit, so one may perceive things with their mind, rather than their unreliable senses. It is a practice well over 5000 years-old. Although Yoga is an immensely rich discipline, asanas (postures or poses) and Pranayama (breathing control) are the aspects Western Yoga highlights most.
There is a reason that 5000 years later, across the world, people still practice yoga; it works. Nothing relaxes and stimulates the human body simultaneously like yoga - not to mention it builds strength and increases flexibility. Whether it be the fast pace and high-intensity of power yoga, the sweat and determination of hot yoga, or the helpful props in restorative yoga, there is certainly a type of yoga for everyone.
To top things off, Ottawa has a growing yoga community with many studios. During the summer, on Wednesdays parliament hill is converted into a giant dojo and they offer a free yoga class. My personal favourite free yoga is Free Full Moon Yoga at Lansdowne Park. Everyone gathers on the great lawn under the moonlight, definitely a bizarre sight.
Plus with YouTube and other sites, there are endless videos to get you started... It's just a matter of rolling out the mat.
Matthew is an Ottawa-based writer with a passion for football that was conceived in 2009, when the New Orleans Saints defied all odds and won their first Super Bowl Championship. He longs to visit Northern Europe to see the aurora borealis. Until then, he reads graphic novels, plays Super Smash Bros., and attempts to stay fit.