Happy International Yoga Day everyone! What? I thought it was Father’s Day. Well, it is, but it’s also a day when millions are celebrating an ancient tradition around the world. On this day, I do wish all dads out there a happy day filled with relaxation and family as well as the calmness that yoga can bring.
I started doing yoga several years ago and, even though I’m not even close to being a “yogi” and I sadly haven’t been to a class in months, I absolutely love it. I think of it as the perfect balance between strength and letting go and I’m using today as a way of inspiring me to get back to it starting tomorrow. Who’s with me?
It’s estimated that more than 20 million Northern Americans practice some type of yoga and its benefits are far-reaching. For me it reduces stress and it centers me. It calms me down and it makes my body feel good, not hurt. I feel so good just stretching my body out all while listening to calming music in a dimly lit room. What’s not to love?
Yoga is also known to improve flexibility, breathing, and blood flow while at the same time reducing inflammation, high blood pressure, anxiety, chronic pain, and even depression. Best of all, everyone can do it: young and old, limber and stiff. I fall into the latter of both of those but I can do yoga! I can do my Warrior 1 and 2 poses along with Downward Dog and Child’s Pose. I love a Half Moon and a Side Angle but Tree, Chair, Crescent Moon, and Cobra are very hard for me. And as for Table: no way, no how! Yet!
When I do yoga in the evening, I swear I sleep better that night. I also find that I sweat much more in a yoga class than any other type of class or training I’ve done. I don’t know if that really matters, but it certainly makes me feel like I’m getting a great work-out and my money’s worth!
“I’m too old” is not something you ever hear in a yoga studio. In fact, a recent study showed that yoga can actually increase the power in an elderly person’s brain that promotes mental flexibility, information recall, and the ability to multi-task. Seems the wonderful deep breathing you do in yoga pumps more oxygen into your brain cells resulting in a more active brain. Get your mats and sign up!
What I also like about yoga is that it’s not some new “exercise of the month” program. It’s been around for centuries. Literally. Actually, more than 6,000 years but who’s counting?
Originating in India, yoga most likely developed around the 5th and 6th centuries. Its original purpose was to integrate the body and the mind and it is considered a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline among both Hindus and Buddhists. As with anything, there are many styles and practices including:
Hatha. Probably the most popular yoga style, Hatha yoga is perfect for beginners. That’s probably why it’s considered the standard by many and so widespread. Hatha classes consist of slow, gentle movements with lots of modifications for each student’s needs and abilities.
Vinyasa. Full of Vinyasa “flow” moves, this is a type of yoga that tells someone you’re not brand new to it but you’re not an expert either. I like Vinyasa classes although they can be very challenging for me. How you can tell a Vinyasa class from another yoga class is that you will change positions through a “flow” method of movements that are fairly fast. In addition, there are generally fewer available modifications and breaks.
Ashtanga . Also known as “Power Yoga,” this class is for someone who’s been doing yoga for a while and also incorporates cardio and strength training regularly. It is a physically demanding class and includes jumping from one pose to another, as opposed to “flowing” between them like in Vinyasa. The movements quickly raise your heart rate and there are no breaks. The class is also great for building muscle, as are all yoga classes though.
Bikram. I’m sure you’ve heard of this one, also known as “Hot Yoga.” It was definitely the “hot” thing for a hot minute. Two friends of mine did a “30 classes in 30 days” Bikram challenge a few years ago and came out in great shape. It’s best for anyone who’s done yoga before and who is looking to release tight muscles. In a Bikram class, room temperature is cranked to at least 100 degrees, allowing muscles to warm up quickly and increasing deep stretching and flexibility. Poses are often held for at least one minute, which may not sound like a long time, but if you’ve done yoga, you know it’s more challenging than it sounds. These classes are considered very hard.
My goal now is to return to my yoga classes tomorrow and continue doing them until I get back in the groove. Why? Because it’s good for me and it makes me feel good. Namaste.