For many years, yoga and I had a very on-again, off-again relationship; I traipsed in and out of classes and studios during my high school and early college years but never allowed myself the opportunity to truly commit to a physical or spiritual practice — I was very busy, after all. After a few semesters of overeating, overthinking, and overpartying, I felt disconnected from my body and knew it was time to get serious about my health. Though I grew up dancing and cheering, I was never much of a conventional athlete — the idea of running a mile made me shudder — but yoga seemed just my speed.
After keeping up with a consistent practice, my body and mind started to reap the benefits. Here are a few of the gifts I never could have expected receiving from yoga.
I Started Paying Attention to My Body
Yoga gave me a kind of awareness about my muscles, joints, and mental state that I had never experienced. Once I began regularly practicing, I found myself checking in with my body in and outside of the yoga studio, realizing things I had never been cognizant of before. As I started listening to my body and began to take my practice seriously, the shift spilled its way into other facets of my life. I started eating better, partying less, and supporting my needs more. For the first time in my life, I moved and fueled myself in ways that felt caring.
I Was Forced to Face Fear Head-On
If you're serious about your practice progressing and evolving, you have to step out of your comfort zone. At one point, I thought that I would be able to wake up one day with the magic ability to tackle tough arm-balancing postures, but I soon learned this wasn't the case. Those yogis you see in class holding a Firefly  or Handstand  so comfortably? That took years of trying, falling, and making loud (sometimes embarrassing) noises in class. Once I stopped being so concerned about how advanced I appeared in class, I was able to move past my mind's limitations, feel the fear, and trust my own body's strength.
I Learned How to Breathe . . . Seriously
When you want to learn new poses, it's essential to feel free and relaxed in your body and align your breath with your movement — this too did not come for me overnight. I had always considered myself to be a relatively "chill" person, but as I would feel myself tighten up and become frustrated in difficult poses, yoga helped me realize just how much tension and anxiety I was holding in my body every single day. Learning how to check in with my breath and slow things down has made a huge difference in the quality of my practice, and far off my mat, it began to transform my relationships and day-to-day responsibilities. Taking this quality of breath to my everyday life has helped me calm down, see things clearly, and take a step back when necessary.