People come to yoga for a variety of reasons. Some look to ease physical pain, others accompany a friend, and many are simply curious. Whatever sparks the initial interest, those who commit to a regular practice undergo profound changes that answer any questions about yoga’s benefits. What was once dismissed as a hippie pastime is now recognized as a powerful tool for improving physical and mental well-being. Whether you seek relief or transformation, yoga can help alleviate and even reverse countless causes of suffering.
There is nothing more fulfilling and encouraging than hearing from a real-life yogi about what brought them to the mat, and how it has changed their lives. While scrolling through the internet about yoga, we often come across pictures of beautiful people in exotic locations doing handstands and the splits at the same time and we think “No way, I could never do that.” Based on this unrealistic perception, we come to the conclusion that yoga is not for us.
The reality is, most of us are doing yoga in our living room with a YouTube video and have been trying (with the most ridiculously slow progress) to do the splits for years. When we bring our practice to class, we realize that we are not alone. The reality is that the majority of yogis are just like us – on an individual journey of self-discovery, using yoga as a means to connect with the essence of life and enjoy it to the fullest.
At Inspiring Actions, we take pride in our community of yogis who share a passion not just for yoga but for the way it has transformed their lives. People who have experienced the healing power of yoga are driven to bring it to others. It’s like they have found an answer to that burning question of “how can I help myself?“. Our instructors and students are committed to this shared mission of self-discovery through yoga. Join our community and discover the benefits of yoga for yourself!
Alan is a member of our Inspiring Actions community. Here he shares with us his story of taking up yoga, and how it impacted his life. Read on to hear from a real-life yogi!
Alan’s journey of self-discovery led him down an unexpected path. As he searched for ways to connect with his inner self, he came upon the practice of yoga. At first, he was skeptical – how could simple stretches and breathing exercises make a difference in his life? But as he dove deeper into the practice, Alan began to realize the profound impact that yoga had on his mind, body, and spirit.
“I had a rough childhood with going through a divorce and my father passing at a young age. I didn’t have a clear direction in my life and spent a lot of time in school figuring out what my calling was in terms of a career. My life experiences and my nature of being an introverted person all contributed to my developing anxiety, which peaked during my college years.
I had a lot of stress in terms of the amount of debt I was getting into and wondering how I’d ever be able to climb out of it. There were other things that added to the anxiety such as rising inflation, problems with our society, and the degradation of our biosphere and soil/water quality (due to pollution and deforestation).
It got to the point where I had to do something about the anxiety. I spent a lot of time examining myself and my place in the world. I learned about how the mind works, how emotions work, and what anxiety is (and how useful it can be). This examination guided me towards yoga and meditation—as well as a creative career in landscape design.
I started doing yoga at home by watching Youtube videos (Yoga with Adriene). I was hesitant to go to an in-person class but decided to go for it. I was surprised to find that there were a decent number of guys in the classes on campus (UW-River Falls). My first instructor was Angelica (who currently teaches at Inspiring Actions); she encouraged me to go to ‘In Balance Yoga’ in River Falls when she taught there; I attended classes at that studio for a few years before COVID hit.”
Yoga has been a significant part of Alan’s life for almost a decade. However, the pandemic put his yoga practice on hold. Nonetheless, Alan eventually returned to the mat after experiencing some changes in his leg that had a previous ACL injury. He found that the practice that helped alleviate anxiety was also an effective, gentle way to strengthen the muscles in his leg.
“I’ve been practicing yoga for 8 or 9 years. Before COVID I got busy with life and work. During COVID I didn’t do much exercise other than some stretching here and there on my own, hiking, and things like that. I fell out of a regular yoga practice for a couple years. I also stopped going to hockey with all the shutdowns.
As things started to open back up (from covid) I decided to get back into playing hockey as it was such great exercise and I loved playing since I was a kid. I tore my ACL in high school playing hockey and had it repaired at that time. After COVID restrictions let up, I got in with a fast-paced (and fun) group in the cities. After a month of playing, my repaired knee started to get tired and feel a little weak. I decided to stop playing. This experience led to me getting back into yoga for an entirely different reason—to build strength in my knee in a safe and gentle way.
When I first got into yoga, it was to get out of my head. After practicing I noticed the additional benefits of increased strength and flexibility in my legs. I became a better hockey skater after getting into yoga. After the break from COVID, my legs weren’t in as good of shape. The sudden re-introduction of hockey was hard on my repaired knee; it caused me to realize that any physical activity where I’m putting too much pressure on the knee joint at an angle is going to likely wear out the knee faster.
I decided to shy away from these kinds of activities and focus on activities that are gentle on the knee joint. Yoga, mountain biking, and squats/knee exercises all help to build up the strength in my knee/legs. Yoga, specifically, has helped me improve my strength, flexibility, and balance. I also drive a lot during work and spend a lot of time sitting at a desk. Yoga helps keep my hips and back relaxed. Side bends—in particular—are great for anyone that drives or sits a lot.”
In today’s world, it can be easy to get lost in a wave of demands and distractions. Many people find themselves sitting at a desk for hours on end, staring at computer screens and feeling drained by the end of the day. For Alan, yoga has helped bring balance and clarity to his routine. Through combining mindful breathing, stretching, and meditation, yoga helps calm the mind and release tension in the mind and body. By prioritizing this practice, Alan has found himself feeling more focused and energized throughout the day.
“I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screen, which isn’t healthy for your brain. Yoga flows are a perfect way to calm the mind. There are many great instructors at Inspiring Actions that have a wealth of experience in developing yoga flows to calm the mind, body, and spirit after a long day. A good yoga class always makes me feel calm and relaxed. It gets me out of my head and relaxes all my muscles. It raises my energy level and makes me feel present.
For someone that lives a lot of my life in my head, yoga is a major gift. Presence is incredibly important in life. The more I focus on presence and raising my energy level, the happier and more fulfilled I am in life. In today’s world we are continuously told to strive for more and do more. It feels good to accomplish things and to learn and to grow. It feels good to create. But life requires balance. We need time to relax and recover.
By the same token, it’s great to plan and invest in your future; but it’s very easy to fall into a trap where we are living too much of our lives in the future and not grounded enough in the present moment—always looking forward to the next thing. Life requires balance. It’s important to plan and work and accomplish goals, but it’s more important to be present in what you are doing, and with those around you.
My yoga practice is a time where I delve deeply into the present moment—and deeply into myself. I examine my body and my mind and ask myself where I need to relieve tension—what I need to work on. My yoga practice grounds me. It teaches me balance physically, mentally, and spiritually. It teaches me to be present with the moment—and all that it has to offer. It teaches me gratitude—that each moment is a gift and something to cherish.
Yoga teaches me to be present with my thoughts/emotions, process them, and move past them/let them go. It raises my energy level and results in the feelings of love and joy. There are certainly other ways to unwind and other ways to feel present/blissful. Doing something you love or spending time with family/friends are great ways to accomplish these things. One of the greatest benefits of my regular yoga practice is that it heightens my presence and joy in everything I do outside of yoga.”
Alan discovered that regular attendance in a studio class helped him form relationships with other yogis. He appreciated how it offered the chance to share experiences, challenges, and successes and learn from one another. Alan found that it is ultimately your mindset that directs your path in life, and that yoga helps him be more mindful and look at things from a more balanced perspective.
“Yoga has an enormous number of benefits—mental, physical, spiritual, etc. It’s a great investment in your health and well-being. The movements and poses relieve tension in the body—making you feel more relaxed. There is a strong meditative aspect to yoga that relaxes the mind. The flows improve your energy level and make you feel more centered and in tune with your life-force energy.
People get into yoga for a variety of reasons. I believe the main reason people continue to practice is because it makes them feel better and more centered/present. The people at Inspiring Actions are great to be around. The instructors meet you where you are—and the yogis are focused in on their practice. It makes for a welcoming and safe environment. I’ve had many great conversations with yogis and teachers at Inspiring Actions and that’s a major benefit of attending classes regularly—developing those relationships and learning from one another.“
The journey of self-discovery with yoga that Alan experienced is something that is available to anyone, no matter where they are on their personal development path. Practicing a regular yoga practice, paying attention to the breath, and focusing on alignment can help lead to improved physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re ready to start your own yoga journey or deepen your practice, come visit us at Inspiring Actions!