Yoga: Trend or Health Hero?

Yoga_-_Josel_Nilsson

Photo by Josel Nilsson

I could never figure out the allure.  Rolling around on the floor on a gym mat, bending your body like a pretzel, paying a lot of money for lounging pants.  Fast forward to today and my LuluLemon pants are actually worn for yoga, I have a pretty pink yoga mat just for my classes and I’ve learned things about my body I never thought possible.  I discovered yoga when I was a skeptic and let me tell you, I got a harsh dose of reality during my first class.

I always thought yoga was an easy class where you did some fancy stretches and closed your eyes a few times to relax.  What I learned, is that yoga strengthens your joints, elongates your muscles for more flexibility and creates a strong bridge between your mind and body.  Many yoga poses require strength, endurance and of course, flexibility.  Now don’t expect to walk into a yoga class and be able to complete all of the moves demonstrated on your first day.  Here are some interesting things I discovered about yoga during my journey and I hope you find them helpful.

1.  There are different types of yoga, some of the variances are described here:

http://life.gaiam.com/article/beginners-guide-8-major-styles-yoga

2.  There is a style of yoga that is becoming increasingly popular commonly refered to as “hot yoga”.  I personally don’t enjoy the heated room however if you are someone who experiences a lot of joint or muscular pain, the heat relaxes the body and allows for ease of movement.

3.  Ever see those foam “bricks” at the gym or in an exercise studio?  If you are brand new to yoga, you are going to want to grab a couple on your way in to your class.  These are used if you are unable to complete a pose.  For example, if you cannot reach the floor, you would use the bricks under your hands to assist you in touching down.  These will become very dear to you during your first sessions.  Eventually, as you progress and gain flexibility, you will no longer require these :).  If you would like to see what these look like and are interested in buying them online, they can be purchased and viewed here: http://www.gaiam.com/yoga-essentials-block/95-1407.html?start=5&cgid=3010100

4.  Did you know that Lululemon hoodies (or any brand for that matter) are actually very useful in a yoga class and are not just cute sweaters to wear on the weekend?  I didn’t know this until recently lol.  What I discovered at my yoga classes was during the last 10 minutes of every class, we would have a period where we slowed down our bodies and our minds.  During this meditative session of the class, I would always become very cold and calm.  Most women, before the cool down period would commence, would put on their sweaters.  Some even brought blankets!  I was better prepared for my next class but did not expect to want to throw on a sweater after sweating from 45 minutes of holding poses.

5.  Allowing an open mind and open body will give you the opportunity to reach your full potential in your classes.  Listen to your body.  Go at your own pace.  If a pose feels painful or you need to rest, do so.  Yoga should never be an unpleasant experience and most instructors will advise you to go into child’s pose or another calming pose if you require rest.

6.  Invest in your own yoga mat.  They’re relatively inexpensive, I purchased mine at Winners for $15.00 and bought a thicker one for comfort.

7.  Yoga is usually done barefoot so keep that in mind.  You will be asked to remove your shoes and socks.

8.  Yoga requires strength and during your first classes, your muscles will shake and you will want to fold over while holding long poses.  Stay determined and hold on for as long as you can.  Every class gets easier.

If you give yoga a chance, you will be impressed with your increase in flexibility, strength, stamina and even patience!  Yoga influences a calmness and focus that you will feel for days after a great class!  Most instructors will offer a modified pose for newbies or for those of us who haven’t acquired the flexibility needed yet to complete the motion.

Many of us live very busy lives – think of this hour of yoga as a focused session on you.  For that one hour, you’re taking time out of your hectic schedule and slowing things down to a pace where things are calm and in control.  Relax during the meditative part of the class, listen to your breathing and steady your mind.
Most importantly, have fun!  If you have the same experience I did, you will find yourself craving your weekly yoga session as a period where you reset your body and mind, returning to the center. Namaste.- MJ

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