You have probably already heard or read about it, yoga seems to be everywhere these days. There are a lot of pre-conceived notions about what yoga is, ranging from a strenuous, acrobatic endeavor only for the very strong and flexible; to some sort of new age, spiritual practice where you sit around chanting. Sure, those are out there, but the vast majority of yoga classes are fun, relaxing and full of normal, practical people just like you.
Here are some good reasons why you should give yoga a try:
(1) Yoga is a gentle way to start to be more physically active.
Yoga can be the gateway to other exercise. In and by itself, yoga is a complete fitness program, however the strength, balance and endurance you develop through practicing yoga often leads to the confidence to take up other activities which you may not otherwise have been willing to try.
(2) Yoga helps keep you young.
According to Human Anatomy and Physiology, "Exercise that coaxes joints through their full range of motion…is the key to postponing the immobilizing effects of aging on ligaments and tendons, to keeping cartilages well nourished, and to strengthening the muscles that stabilize the joints" In addition, yoga incorporates deep breathing which helps improve lung capacity and increases energy and endurance levels.
(3) Yoga undoes the damage we do to our bodies.
Whether you are an athlete or have a job that keeps you sitting at a desk all day, or both, your body pays a price. Tight muscles in the back, neck and legs are by-products of how we use our bodies. Spending one hour a week at yoga, undoing that damage, will make a marked difference in how your body feels and performs.
(4) Yoga can help manage stress and other physical conditions.
High blood pressure, depression, osteoarthritis, and asthma are a few of the many conditions which studies have shown yoga helps manage. Also, yoga has been shown to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, which helps alleviate and manage stress and depression.
(5) Yoga is a fun, enjoyable form of exercise.
There are many styles of yoga, the key is to find the type which fits your personality and needs. The perception that yoga is meant for young, skinny women in expensive stretch pants is wrong. While it's true, those classes exist, there are also gentle, restorative classes, accessible to all levels of fitness and are actually fun for the participants.
Hatha yoga is a general term used to describe classes which are slower moving and hold poses for a moderate amount of time. Look for words like "gentle" or "all-level" if you are beginner. Vinyasa is a term which usually describes a form of yoga that incorporates a lot of movement. Quicker paced, these classes can be very fun, and a bit more challenging.
Yin yoga, is a therapeutic form of yoga which holds each pose for several minutes to target the connective tissues, such as ligaments and tendons. Yin is the perfect yoga for athletes, it is gentle and helps promote recovery. Finally, restorative is a very slow moving, gentle form of yoga that uses props such as bolsters, blocks and straps. Extremely gentle in it's pace, restorative yoga is perfect for those recovering from surgery or dealing with chronic pain conditions.
Give yoga a try for yourself, you will probably find there are many other benefits which are not listed here.
By Tara Kestner
Previously published on Next Level Yoga's Blog
Tara Kestner is a registered yoga instructor who specializes in working with athletes of all levels. She designs programs based on specific sport requirements and challenges. Utilizing the principle that strength plus flexibility equals power, her classes give athletes the tools they need to enhance their performance. Tara is the owner of Next Level Yoga, Ltd., in Toledo, Ohio.