Do More Yoga: The What and Why

new years resolution {Source}

How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolution? If you just thought “What’s a New Year’s….oh…THAT THING,” then my guess is you aren’t doing too hot.

My NYR was to do more yoga. I didn’t set goal other than do “more”. Considering I did ZERO yoga in 2012, one measly class means I’m already winning. How’s THAT for setting yourself up for success?

I’m lucky in that yoga classes are offered at my gym at work. I make at least two classes a week, and even fit in some yoga while traveling last week.

But why. Why“practice” more yoga? Isn’t it all heavy breathing dudes wearing weirdly loose (or tight) pants or skinny blonde chicks that don’t seem to own clothes with buttons or zippers?

creepy yoga guy {We aren’t going home with you, Inappropriate Yoga Guy.}

Well, yes. Yes it is all of those things.

But it is so much more.

According to a new study (it’s a boring read- just trust my Cliff Notes), 20 minutes of yoga can help your brain function better. After a 20 minute hatha yoga practice, you are better able to focus mentally, process information quickly and more accurately, and learn, hold and update info more effectively than after performing 20 minutes of cardio or weight training.

Breathing and meditative exercises, like yoga, aim at calming the mind and body, keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. This “training” then translates throughout your day as you perform various activities.

How cool is that?

Yoga helps clean blood of waste through lymphatic stimulation (the organs, vessels, ducts, and capillaries that run all over your body), preventing infection and sickness. Regular practice loosens muscles and joints that are ignored in our day-to-day lives, and builds bone and muscle strength. Yoga does wonders to eliminate lower back pain, asthma and arthritis by strengthening core muscles and promoting flexibility and range of motion. It’s been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate, benefiting people with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Yoga also gives you a rockin’ long and lean body like Madonna. Okay, how about Gweneth Paltrow? Is that a better visual?

madonna yoga pose {Pretty sure Ol’ Madge is an evil wizard.}

I know what you are thinking: “This sounds all unicorns and rainbows Megan, but yoga is intimidating! Plus, I don’t own black stretchy pants and I shave my pits.”

Trust me, yoga CAN be intimidating. There was a stretch of about 4 years where I tried to be a “yogi” and kept walking out of class because the instructor went too fast or I repeatedly fell over. I’m with you. I get it.

Try it anyway. And if you walk out, go back the next day. Or watch online yoga videos until you are comfortable taking a class.

what-is-bikram-yoga {Source}

Though I am not the hugest fan of Dr. Oz (in a week span he did a show on the benefits of chapstick and then another show featuring health products that will kill us. One being chapstick. Off the fence, Ozzie.), he has a great yoga for beginners lesson that only takes 7-10 minutes.

There are several different types of yoga, but for “online attention span” sake, the most popular are:

Bikram: otherwise known as hot yoga. The heat is cranked up to nearly 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity in official Bikram classes. It consists of a series of 26 basic yoga postures, each performed twice.

Hatha: a basic and classical approach to yogic breathing exercises and postures – what you will most likely find at your local gym.

Power: a more athletic and active style of yoga – it moves at a quicker pace and focuses more on building strength over flexibility.

Vinyasa: all about continuous movement — and most importantly, matching that movement with breathing. The focus is on movement and grace, so that for many it ends up feeling something like dancing.

I love yoga for all of the benefits above, but mainly because it centers me. What I mean by that is for 45-60 minutes, I am quiet. I am focused on my hips, my shoulders, my breathing. I am more aware of my body than any other time of the day. Even when my mind is racing and it seems impossible to shut out the thoughts, I can. Some days for 45 minutes, some days for 4. Sometimes I let my mind stay empty, other days I try to take inventory of every single muscle contracting and stretching. On really great days, I am able to focus on a prayer or mantra, like focus.

aware still present yoga

Yoga can mean different things for different people – it’s not all patchouli and pretension. Yogis come in all shapes, ages, meat preferences and body-pretzeliness. So get out there and give it a shot. I PROMISE you won’t be sorry (okay, I don’t promise, but I strongly endorse).

How is your New Year’s Resolution going?

Do you have any fun yoga stories? Cause I do. Once, I was feeling frisky and put my mat in the front row. Shortly thereafter, I split my pants during a swan dive. And I was wearing a thong. Let’s just say someone’s view was less than Zen.

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