Sign Me Up for Yoga!

Photo by judepics via Flickr

Photo by judepics via Flickr

The past month has been the worst of Kate’s life. First, her job cut her hours by 15% and her hourly pay by 20%. Next, her boyfriend of 7 years left her for her best friend. To add insult to injury, she had to move out of her apartment because she couldn’t afford the rent with her lower pay and no roommate. So, now she is living with her parents until she finds something cheaper in a decent area.

Normally, Kate binges on sweets and junk food when she is depressed.  Not this time, she decided. Gaining weight always made her feel even worse later. Instead, she started taking a Yoga class on her friend Jennifer’s recommendation. After a few sessions, Kate noticed that it helped her manage her stress and frustration a little better.

Kate is not alone. More and more people are turning to yoga to help them learn relaxation skills and manage their daily stress. While yoga might sound like just another fitness fad, it actually originated in India over 2,000 years ago. During that time, Yoga has proven to be an effective means of improving the mind and body, which are both key components of optimal health.

What is yoga?
Today, yoga is basically viewed as a system of exercises that encompasses poses, breathing techniques and relaxation.  As you move from one pose to another, your focus shifts away from your busy, stressful day, to controlling your breathing and focusing on specific parts of your body. By the time you are finished with your routine, you feel more relaxed than when you started.

Over the millenia, yoga has evolved into many different versions and intensities. Some are focused on meditation, relaxation, and deep breathing, while others are focused on improving strength, balance, flexibility and stamina. So, depending on your goals, there are a lot of styles to pick from. Plus, there are versions appropriate to people of every level of physical fitness. You don’t have to be in peak shape to start and there will still be forms that will be effective when you are.

What are the health benefits?
Yoga is a wonderful exercise for the mind and body. It has been found to relieve stress and anxiety and increase flexibility, balance, strength and endurance. And some studies suggest that yoga may be beneficial in helping to manage chronic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, hypertension and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. However, more studies are needed to make a definitive conclusion.

How do I get started?
If you want to learn more about yoga, there are 2 main ways to do so:

  1. Take a class: Yoga is a popular activity, and you should easily be able to find classes at your local gym, community center, adult school, community college or yoga studio. A qualified yoga instructor will lead you through the poses appropriate for your level and make sure that you are doing them correctly. If you are not sure what class you want to take, ask to observe a class or two to see if they are the right fit for you.
  2. Learn from a DVD or book: If your schedule does not allow you to attend a class, try learning from a DVD or book. It won’t be as good as a live instructor helping you with your poses, but it will give you an idea of what yoga is all about. If you do yoga alone, you’ll want to practice in front of a mirror to check your poses.

As always, before starting yoga or any other exercise program, be sure to talk to you doctor beforehand, especially if you have a medical condition.

The bottom line:
Yoga is a wonderful activity that should not only improve your mood, but could also give you a great, low impact workout. So, don’t let your stress overtake you. Join a yoga class, instead. A healthy mind and body are key to optimal health after all!

Comments (1)

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  1. Maria Isabel says:

    I have a friend who has been doing Yoga for many years and she loves it! It is a great way for her to relax from her daily stress.

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