Of all my fitness endeavors through the years, yoga is the one I’ve done most consistently. I can’t remember why I started, but there are many reasons why I continue my practice.
Serious yogis (practitioners) don’t think of yoga as exercise, but as a lifestyle with guidelines for behavior and attitude. Mind power and meditation are important for health and connecting with the body, the breath, and the universe.
There are several styles of yoga. Some are ancient, others are relatively new. The styles are sometimes named for their creators, such as Iyengar and Bikram. Other times, they are named for the practice, such as Vinyasa (flow) and Ashtanga (power yoga).
In yoga, a lot of attention is given to the breath and the postures (poses). There are many yoga videos on the market, but I always recommend people take a class with an instructor who can teach proper alignment and options (easy to advanced).
Many people begin yoga for the physical benefits and later find the mental relaxation to be just as necessary. It requires mental focus and physical control. Increased flexibility, improved posture, strength and endurance are a few of the positive changes people see in their bodies with practice. Many find yoga improves their performance in other sports.
The postures (poses/asanas) have names, many after things in nature or things they emulate. Mountain, tree, crocodile, eagle, warrior, boat, wheel, plough, headstand are just a few. It can get a little confusing because some styles have different names for the same pose and many of them have Sanskrit names. (Shavasana means corpse pose.) There are forward bends, backbends, twists, and inversions. Some poses are calming, others are for strength, balance, or flexibility. Some poses aid in digestion or improve other bodily functions, like respiration and reproduction. Guess what wind-removing pose is good for?
Balance postures to be the most challenging to me. The day I can hold crow/crane or tiptoe pose for more two seconds is a good day. Because of chronic back problems, I find the core and back strengthening poses are especially helpful. For people with tightness in the low back, hip openers are wonderful, but they may be difficult in the beginning.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yoga (3rd Edition)
I could spend hours telling people about the benefits of yoga practice, but many won’t understand unless they try it for themselves. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes today. With consistent practice, you will soon. It’s not yoga perfect, but when you nail a pose you’ve been struggling with and it feels right, it makes your whole day.
What has yoga done for you?