Even though the practice of yoga has been around for thousands of years, I must admit that I was more than a little wary about trying it because I am the total opposite of flexible (feel free to choose a word – inflexible? rigid? stiff?!) When I first started yoga, I was a little wary because I’m not a flexible person (to say the least)! It was very easy for me to rationalize avoiding downward dog, cat pose, bridge pose, chair pose, child’s pose, and every other pose by telling myself for years and years, “Yoga is only for flexible people.”
I was wrong. Thanks to the encouragement of friends and very patient yoga teachers with senses of humor (key elements!), I tried some yoga classes at my gym and soon realized that we can all benefit both physically and emotionally from the practice of yoga. Here are some of the reasons I think yoga is beneficial for all of us:
Heart Healthy: Yoga can be described as a cardiovascular stress reliever. Due to its focus on breathing and mindfulness, it helps to reduce blood pressure, improve lipid profiles, and lower blood sugar levels.
Increased Flexibility and Muscle Strength: The poses used in yoga increase both flexibility and muscle strength, which in turn helps you complete daily tasks with more ease and less discomfort. You’ll look good and feel good because yoga poses are “built to reinforce the muscles around the spine, the very center of your body, which is the core from which everything else operates.” Your body will thank you for practicing yoga (and, if my body could talk, I am convinced it would tell me how eternally grateful it is that I am a yoga devotee!)
Mental Health Boost: One of the absolutely best reasons that yoga is an excellent activity is its positive effect on mental health. Yoga’s focus on mindfulness, meditation and breathing has been proven to help people manage and work through stress much more calmly. As Dr. Natalie Nevins concludes in an article available on the American Osteopathic Association website, “Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.” I know that once I step off the mat after a yoga session, I definitely feel more relaxed and ready to take on the day.
So – anyone can practice yoga (another way of saying, “ If I can do it so can you”)! There are many types of classes offered at more and more yoga studios. My suggestion is to start out with one or two classes and take it from there. And remember – patience and a sense of humor are key!