Yoga for Everyone
When you type the word “Yoga” into google images the same photo seems to appear again and again; that of a young and incredibly fit woman striking a seemingly impossible pose - touching her foot to her head or in a handstand with her legs stretched far above her. A google image search of “Yoga” might lead you to think, ‘Well, that’s not the activity for me.’ But this picture-perfect image of yoga, the one you see on studio storefronts or in lifestyle magazines, does not depict the real yoga.
The Truth about Yoga
Yoga has a long history rooted in the wellness of the mind and the body. It’s a mental, physical, and spiritual practice that originated in ancient India. According to stone-carved figures of yoga postures yoga can be dated back to 3000 B.C. It’s a practice that has existed for a long time. It came to the West in the 19th century and has since only increased in popularity. While the original intention of yoga was to achieve harmony between the heart and soul on the path to enlightenment, it has since been found that yoga has the benefit of curing diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and alleviating symptoms of physical injury and pain. Yoga has also proven to increase balance and mobility, and has been linked to better brain health in the long-term. This practice that was created in 3000 B.C. can bring so many benefits to our daily lives that it has become nearly impossible to ignore. Yoga is everywhere, and despite the way our media and popular culture has decided to depict yoga, yoga is for everyone.
The best part about yoga is that it is so adaptable. Yoga comes in many shapes and sizes, so it would only make sense that it’s for people of many shapes and sizes! Whether you are a long time yogi or just getting started, there is a yoga for you.
We want to focus on the benefits of yoga if you aren’t a long time yogi, or if you don’t see yourself in a google image search of yoga. The media has created a depiction of yoga that can be off-putting and deter people from embarking on the incredibly beneficial health journey of yoga. Yoga does not have to push your body to its physical extreme but rather can keep you healthy and fit.
The Benefits of Yoga
Practicing yoga to reach enlightenment might be a good a reason as any to get started. But if you need something a little more concrete to motivate you to get started, you’re in luck.
Yoga is relaxing and has the ability to reduce anxiety. It induces the ‘relaxation response’ a state between being awake and asleep that controls the way your body responds to stress. Yoga can stop the process of stress, reduce your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and ease respiration.
Yoga can lubricate your joints and protect them from stiffening, reducing your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. Care for your joints is incredibly important as healthy joints will help you maintain independence and ability to do daily activities. Yoga benefits your joints because it involves holding poses for long periods of time, which nourishes the joints as they become stronger.
The slow, mindful movements of yoga helps to build strength and balance, which reduces your risk of falls. Holding yoga poses helps to tone muscle and increase your sense of your position within a space. Yoga poses that focus on your feet and your ability to stand are particularly helpful for balance.
As much as yoga is for the body, it is also for the mind. Yoga can keep you sharp and has many benefits for the brain. Yoga emphasizes a focus on breathing and your ability to synchronize your breathing with your movements, which keeps your mind clear and engaged. Breathing exercises involved with yoga help to harmonize the left and right sides of your brain, which leads to a correlation between the logical and emotional sides of the brain, keeping your mind clear and ready to go.
Finally, yoga helps you feel good. Yoga might help you feel good because of the physical benefits you will start to feel once you begin practicing, but it has also been proven to increase your mood. The focus on the combination of movement, meditation, and breathing enhances your sense of well-being. This combination of factors boosts levels of the brain nerve that helps to calm the nerves, reduce anxiety, and contributes to an overall feeling of healthiness.
Yoga Poses to Get You Started
Now that you know all of the wonderful benefits practicing yoga can bring to your life, you’re probably wondering, where do I sign up? There’s no denying the appeal of yoga. It’s an activity that can be a lot of fun, can contribute to your health and well-being in an incredibly positive form, and due to its popularity you should have no trouble finding a space to participate. Yoga studios oftentimes separate classes by ability, age, and type. If you would rather give yoga a go at home (another benefit - you can practice anywhere you like, as no specialized equipment is necessary) here are some poses that will help you get started.
The Tree Pose is probably one of the most popular yoga poses and it’s a really great pose for improving balance. Stand with your legs slightly apart and bring your palms together at your chest. Slowly raise your right leg off the ground so that your heel is touching the inside of your ankle and your toes are still touching the ground. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds and hold on to something if necessary. Repeat with the other leg. As your balance improves, you can slowly bring your raised foot upwards, resting your foot on the inside of your standing leg.
The Warrior Pose involves standing with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your right knee forward and place your left leg about three feet behind you, pointing your left toes outward. Raise your arms towards the ceiling, look up, and take three deep breaths. Repeat with alternate legs.
For the Wall Sit, lean your back against a wall with your feet about one foot in front of you. Raise your arms above your head and slowly bend your knees until you reach a squatting position, about halfway to the floor. Hold the pose for five deep breaths and repeat.
The Legs Up the Wall pose is great for a cool-down stretch and does not offer the strain that bending over can. Sit facing a wall, and slowly bend to the side so that your back reaches the floor. As you are lowering your back to the floor, lift your legs up against the wall. Don’t worry if you can’t keep your legs flat against the wall, you can keep your body slightly back and bend your knees. Keep your arms flat at your side and breathe deeply through the stretch.
And finally, a favorite among yogi’s everywhere, the Corpse Pose. This one is easy! Lie flat on your back on the floor with a pillow under your head. Rest your arms at your sides with your palms facing up. Breathe deeply, and think positively. This pose offers a space for appreciating your movements and allowing your body to settle. Think about your breathing and ease your body into a restful state of relaxation. The workout is over.