Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why YOU Should Try Yoga

Maybe you're one of those people who absolutely abhors the idea of spending an hour trying to touch your toes. But, that isn't what yoga is about. It's not about how flexible you are or how often you work out; it's about finding a peace and inner strength within yourself. Yoga is truly an activity from which anyone can benefit.

I began my journey with yoga about a year ago, though I had taken a few classes previously at my college gym. As a seriously inflexible person (not kidding, I can barely get my bad knees to straighten out completely), I assumed that I would be horrible at yoga. What I found out, however, is that it's not something you can really be “bad” at. Sure, you may not be able to do a pose or stay in a pose as long as anyone else at first, but if you keep going back, you'll find length and flexibility in your body you never knew you had. For example, today I did my first Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) in class. It's essentially a back-bend and looks like this: (http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/473) Like every yoga pose, it has a wealth of benefits when performed properly, such as increasing energy, decreasing depression, and aiding those with backaches. (By the way, mine is definitely not that high yet!)

So, what benefits can you expect to see from yoga, exactly? There are those you might expect, such as strength and flexibility, and there are those you may not expect, such as a sunnier disposition, reduced anxiety, reduced pain, better sleep, more confidence, and a general sense of calm.

Some yoga tips for beginners:

  1. Never stretch yourself too far beyond your limits. When something starts to get uncomfortable, it's not beneficial. Your poses should be challenging, but not painful.
  2. Don't judge yourself too harshly. No one can hit all the poses the first time he/she tries. In fact, it often takes years to perfect one's practice. Instead, focus on your breath and how you move in sync with it. In other words, let your breath lead your movement.
  3. Try a few different classes/styles of yoga and see which one best fits your lifestyle/ helps you meet your goals. I prefer a fast-flowing vinyasa yoga class to keep my heart rate up, while at the same time completing similar poses/ a similar routine each time. You may like a slower-paced restorative yoga class or a super hot Bikram Yoga class.
  4. Listen to your instructor. If you're a beginner like I am, good instructors will likely adjust your body both verbally and psychically throughout the class. This is especially true if you take a beginner’s yoga class. On the same vein, you'll want to try out different instructors and see which one you best gel with. This will improve your overall class experience.
  5. Go to “Child's Pose” any time you need a rest during your practice. Seen here (http://yoga.about.com/od/yogaposes/a/childspose.htm), this pose will help bring awareness to your body and all the hard work you've been doing, while also allowing you to rest.
I can personally attest to a decrease in anxiety and general increase in well-being from my yoga practice. I currently take yoga classes at least 1-2 times per week. If I skip a week, I notice that my body is more tense, and I simply feel a bit “out of sorts.” So, I hit the mat again and reap the benefits.

If you haven't yet given yoga a go, try a few classes. Whether your body needs a good stretch from the hardcore workouts you do on a regular basis, or you simply want to add a bit more balance and clarity to your life, yoga could be exactly what you've been searching for!

 Where Yoga Takes Me

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