It seems to me that every time I run into someone who does Yoga on a regular basis they are a fanatic about it. There really isn’t an in between. You either Love it or you don’t do it. I recently purchased a Groupon (for those of you who aren’t familiar a coupon website) to try out some Yoga classes at my local Yoga studio. To be quite honest $20.00 a class is pricey when you want to go more than once a week.
I attended my first session this weekend, I had done Yoga at my local recreation center before, but this was more personalized. Michelle, the instructor, was 100% living, breathing, dying, Yoga. She had been teaching for 20 years and has attended a multitude of schools/workshops. She is the definition of a Yogi, and if you don’t know what a Yogi is, they are a master of Yoga.
I made the mistake of wearing my tennis shoes into the area where we would be performing, don’t ever do that. It definitely sent a red flag up to everyone in the room that I was brand spanking new. Michelle greeted me and then asked if I was new, wondering if I had any painful areas on my body she should be aware before we started. After she personally greeted everyone in the room we all sat down on our mats.
The age range was from young to old. Their was a young teenage couple that wore all back and were covered in tattoos. There was a pregnant woman who was in her mid thirties. There were four older middle aged women. There was me and also a girl that appeared to be in her 20’s. Michelle is in her 60’s but has the flexibility of a 12 year old gymnast.
We started slowly inhaling and exhaling. Finding our center. Calming our body down and she wanted us to pick a goal for the day. It didn’t have to be anything related to the body. “If you need to let go of something in your life, make that your focus today. If you want to start a routine, focus on that today.” said Michelle. If you have read my past blog posts, you might have guessed what I focused on. Letting go, specifically letting go of heartbreak.
We did several intricate poses and Michelle came around adjusting our form. Providing compliments and critiques when needed. The movements were slower and more controlled. Nothing about this workout makes you sweat but that doesn’t mean it is easy. You are using muscles in your body that you otherwise probably never would have used.
The last fifteen minutes she had us lay down and meditate. She came around and put this rose oil underneath our noses and had us calm the mind. I know it seems far out there to some people, believe me I was skeptical myself but to be honest it’s the only hour a week I devote to de-stressing myself. And I needed it.
I was a skeptic before and I honestly think it was because I had practiced Yoga at a place that didn’t provide it as their speciality. After going somewhere that knows what they are doing, I can definitely see the psychological benefits and also the physical ones. You aren’t going to go to Yoga and lose weight. So if that is your goal, this isn’t the class for you. It will improve your muscle tone and flexibility. More importantly it will give space to breathe and de-stress for one whole hour. Nothing is rushed for one whole hour. It is amazing how rare that is. Everything in our lives on a daily basis is rushed. Not this.
I am going to list some research I found about the health benefits of Yoga below. I hope this is informative. All of this was taken from WebMD and not some quack website.
1. Improves Posture
2. Improves Strength
3. Reduces Stress
4. Improves Lung Capacity
5. Improves Flexibility
6. Improves Mood
7. Benefits the Heart — I thought this was interesting heres how…
Perhaps one of the most studied areas of the health benefits of yoga is its effect on heart disease. Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Yoga was a key component to the heart disease program designed by Dean Ornish, MD. This was the first program to partly reverse heart disease through lifestyle and diet rather than surgery. On a biochemical level, studies point to a possible anti-oxidant effect of yoga. And yoga has been associated with decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as a boost in immune system function.
8. Yoga’s Effects on Other Medical Conditions
As yoga has become more popular in the West, medical researchers have begun studying the benefits of therapeutic yoga. This is also called integrative yoga therapy or IYT. It’s used as an adjunct treatment for specific medical conditions, from clinical depression to heart disease. Yoga benefits other chronic medical conditions, relieving symptoms of asthma, back pain, and arthritis. Most worldwide clinical studies are happening outside of the U.S. But even the NIH has funded clinical trials on yoga and its health benefits for insomnia and multiple sclerosis.
Other Benefits of Yoga
Some studies have suggested that yoga may have a positive effect on learning and memory. Other researchers have been studying whether yoga can slow the aging process, increase a person’s sense of self-acceptance, or improve energy levels.
Some potential benefits of yoga may be hard to study scientifically. For instance, yoga has been said to increase spiritual awareness. Nevertheless, there is an abundance of anecdotal claims for what yoga can do. Go to any yoga studio and listen to students after class. Some will even tell you that yoga can help improve marriages and relationships at work.
This is also from another website: MindBodyGreen
1. Asthma: The American College of Sports Medicine found a 43% improvement in patients’ symptoms after ten weeks of yoga practice. Yoga’s emphasis on posture and deep, lengthened breaths improves lung capacity, efficiency, and overall airflow, which can reduce the frequency and severity of asthmatic attacks.
2. Arthritis: The slow, controlled movements of a yoga practice have been shown to decrease chronic pain and joint swelling in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers at Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center.
3. Back pain: A study at the West Virginia University School of Medicine found that, after practicing yoga for three months, people reported 70% less lower-back pain, and 88% of them reduced or stopped taking pain medication. Alignment and body awareness during yoga practice has been shown to reduce numerous types of acute and chronic back pain, including scoliosis, sciatica, and herniated discs.
4. Blood pressure: Yale School of Medicine found “significantly reduced” systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels in hypertension patients who practiced yoga and meditation therapies—results that were comparable to drug therapy. Increased circulation and oxygenation of the blood are important outcomes of a continuous yoga practice.
5. Depression and anxiety: Boston University’s School of Medicine discovered a 27% increase of the neurotransmitter GABA within the brain after just one sixty-minute yoga practice. Low levels of GABA have been tied to anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s. Yoga’s mood-enhancing benefits are similar to those for asthma—slowing the breath and heart rate to reduce the body’s stress response.
6. Insomnia: Regular physical activity has been proven to improve sleep, and yoga is no exception. Calming for both the body and the mind, restorative yoga poses are often recommended for those finding it difficult to fall or stay asleep. A small study on yoga practitioners at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found “statistically significant improvements” in all aspects of falling, staying, and awaking from sleep.
7. Nutrition: The Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported a unique connection between a regular yoga practice and eating healthier. Yoga is believed to increase mindful eating: being aware of why you eat and when to stop. Curiously, no other type of physical activity produced the same mindful eating effects.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. No matter your physical or mental capacities, there is surely a benefit to adding a yoga practice into your life. “The greatest benefit yoga can offer is how to live a full, rich, joy-filled, compassionate life in the face of reality,” says Frank Jude Boccio, certified yoga teacher and author of Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of the Breath, Body, and Mind. “Yoga offers freedom from fear.”