Welcome to week three of fitness tips, today I’ll be talking yoga. The practice of yoga always intrigued me, but for a long time I was terrified to try it. I think I was worried I wouldn’t be flexible enough, that I would get bored or that I wouldn’t be able to follow along and end up looking like an idiot. Finally I tried it, and I have loved it ever since. I’ve also convinced a few people along the way to give it a try and they’ve loved it too.
Yoga began over 5000 years ago in Northern India and since then has changed, grew and become hugely popular. I think almost all gyms offer yoga classes now, and of course there’s even dedicated yoga facilities. When I first became interested in yoga, my husband got me a great book on it which only intrigued me more. It helped me learn about all the benefits yoga has to offer, and how to pay attention to my body and the way I was breathing too. It’s also very kid friendly and has been a benefit for my youngest son. Learning the breathing techniques was helpful in teaching him how he can use breathing to calm down if he’s getting upset.
Benefits of yoga
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the benefits of yoga is flexibility. Being flexible may not seem that important, but having good flexibility can help you in so many ways. For some reason I have been cursed with the least flexible hamstrings, so as soon as I do a leg workout they just want to seize up on me, and then of course they are so sore for days after. Increasing your flexibility will help ease those after workout sore muscles. Increased flexibility will also help with any aches and pains you may experience, as well as give you better posture. It will also help keep you fit for daily chores such as gardening, getting groceries and cleaning up the house.
During yoga you engage your muscles to help you transition from one pose to the next, and to help you maintain your balance so you are also toning during the exercise as well. As with all forms of fitness, yoga is also a calorie burner and the amount you burn will depend on your weight.
There is really no end to the benefits of yoga. When you take care of yourself physically I find the rest seems to follow. You want to eat better, you are more relaxed, which will help with your mood and relationships, and we all know that exercise has been proven to help make sure you get a better nights sleep.
Doing yoga is very safe but you do need to be aware of your body and it’s limits.
If you’ve never tried yoga, then start with a beginners class. In all the classes I’ve taken the instructors were very supportive, and there’s always a variation available if you can’t complete the pose as shown by the instructor. If you do take a class where you feel you’re being pushed, or that the instructor is not looking out for your best interest, then I would recommend finding another class to try. If you don’t listen to your body you risk some serious injuries to your muscles and joints. Also make sure you buy yourself a decent yoga mat, they are available in different thicknesses so you can get the perfect one that works for you.
If you’re too nervous to try a class for your first time, there are some great yoga DVD’s you can try at home. I love having one because I don’t always feel like going to the gym, but I find it a nice way to relax at the end of a long day.
Take your yoga to the next step
One of the things I love about yoga is that it’s an exercise that you can adapt to your personal fitness level with some great accessories.
Yoga blocks are a great tool to use for many reasons. They can act almost like a pillow to support your head and neck or as a prop either to sit on or rest your hand on if you can’t make the complete stretch. For example if you are sitting with your legs straight out and you’re stretching to touch your toes but can’t quite make it, you can sit on a block which will allow you to have a farther reach.
Of course there’s also the ever popular yoga ball which is great for core exercises and I also love a bosu ball. They are super versatille, you can sit on them for an ab workout, stand on them on either side to improve your balance or amp up your workout, or use them for a more difficult push up.
Why I love it
I love yoga because it makes me feel strong, healthy and helps me with my posture. You might think yoga looks easy or you won’t be sore after but I can promise you, you will be. It’s not as easy holding up your own body weight as it was when you were a kid (have you tried doing the monkey bars lately?).
I also love that I can do yoga at any time of day. If it’s getting close to bedtime and I’m feeling bummed I didn’t get a workout in, I can just pop in my DVD and do a short workout. A lot of exercises can actually wake you up if you do them too close to bedtime, but a short soothing yoga sequence can really help you relax before bed.
Yoga is also a great exercise for the whole family. My youngest son loves trying out the poses and they even make fun yoga mats for kids. Of course he loves yoga socks too since they are like gloves but for your toes, and I was more than happy to buy him a pair if it got him doing yoga.
I’d love to hear in the comments below how yoga has helped change your life.
Title image @ toppixgallery.com/yoga