For many people, yoga provides a retreat from their chaotic and busy lives, and with everything going on today we could all use a little retreat. This is true whether you’re practicing downward facing dog posture on a mat in your bedroom, in an ashram in India, or even in a professional yoga studio. While yoga provides many physical benefits, it also provides surprising mental ones too.
There is an increasing body of research to support yoga’s mental health benefits. Yoga enhances body awareness, reduces stress, decreases muscle tightness, strain, and inflammation, focuses attention and concentration, and soothes and balances the nervous system.
Bringing in an awareness of your body and breath is a useful tool that can be used off the mat as you increase your concentration in your day-to-day activities. Increasing your strength of focus, your self-confidence strengthens too because you can be clear-minded about the present moment and who you are.
Titus ‘Thai’ James, a 500-hr registered yoga teacher based out of Brooklyn, New York, can attest to this. Using yoga to bring balance, encourage others to unlock their true potential. His motto is “I have come to know that it is not “Practice that makes Perfect”… but you present perfection that makes your practice.” Thai shared his journey with yoga and how it helped him redefine and refocus his self-view. Read more below:
What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved, and transformed?
Yoga has been the one constant in my life that I can turn to for balance and understanding of myself. I have learned to honor my body and listen to its feedback. If I’m not feeling something that day I can honor that and move in a different direction. The person on this journey before yoga came from the world of dance and I was flexible and decent but after every dance rehearsal or class, I always felt less than or not good enough. Whether I couldn’t catch choreography or that someone else was better than me in class, I always felt horrible. After finding yoga I notice that after a class I felt different. I felt inspired. I was in awe of what my body was capable of. I redefined what perfection was, moving from something that I strived to become, to something that I already possess and could be. Yoga allowed me to find a freedom and peace that so many will never find or seek.
“Yoga allowed me to find a freedom and peace that so many will never find or seek.“
What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?
My biggest struggles as a yoga teacher… um this entire year… navigating this pandemic. I feel that this world of online fitness has forced teachers to become their own production teams and social media influencers, which many of us had no desire to do. or become.
We have had to literally put ourselves out there in a way that almost contradicts yogic philosophy. We are now worried about followers, likes, and public approval which takes us away from our personal practice and human interactions, which is probably why we started teaching in the first place.
However, this pandemic has taught me that I am resilient and can create a platform that resonates with others without making myself something that I am not. I have been able to be authentic to myself and share my practice with the world and meeting so many yogis that look, and think like me, has been a plus in this digital world of yoga and fitness, creating global connections that I may not have pursued if not forced to.
I have developed an amazing network that will now support me and my practice for years to come. I can’t wait to travel again and connect with so many individuals in person. I am hopeful and excited about the future and future relationships.
Is there a central message or theme that you hope people take away from your journey?
Embrace your crazy… Understanding that we are perfect in our imperfections. Learning to love and appreciate ourselves is where true freedom resides.
What non-related issues do you believe are important to pair with yoga practice?
Tap into your superpower or your super passion. My personal passion would be animals. I have volunteered for the animal shelter here in New York City for over 10 years and I also take horseback riding lessons when I get the chance. I never had this opportunity to do this when I was younger so the fact that I can provide this outlet for me now, at this stage in my life, is so much more meaningful to me. I can now fully appreciate and enjoy working with these beautiful creatures.
“Tap into your superpower or your super passion.“
Do you have any advice for people that want to start yoga but aren’t sure where to start?
When starting yoga, I say find someone that you resonate with and create your own tribe. In this digital age, you can find anyone that speaks your truth. If you want to find someone that looks like you, whether it be a teacher of color or a teacher living and teaching in a larger body, there is someone out there that can minister to you. Find someone that you find dope and practice with curiosity, take what you need from the process and leave what doesn’t work for you.
What’s one ritual you recommend more people adopt to cultivate peace and wellness?
I love lighting incense. Find a scent that affects you, we all can be moved by fragrances, that evoke emotion or memories. The visual of the rising smoke, can also be used for meditation and the scent can leave an imprint on the room, and every time you enter that space the aroma can remind you of that calm state of mind, or at least you are greeted by a pleasing scent for your senses.
What recent small purchase has increased your quality of life?
So… a not so small purchase I made was my computer… My old computer was dying and had served me faithfully for the last 10 years. Knowing that we are now in the digital age of Zoom and Vimeo videos, I knew that investing in a computer was inevitable. This device has opened up a whole new world of possibilities.