Top 4 reasons for taking up yoga! One of them doesn't require a yoga mat.

Yoga in America has expanded to over 36 million Americans and expected to grow yearly for the many benefits it provides. For over 5,000 years, yoga has been in existence and has now become mainstream for it’s benefits in stress reduction, alternative exercise, enhanced sport performance and mindfulness.

Many people are being guided by a variety of sources to try yoga, some hear it from their physicians or other health care providers, while others from friends and family, or after reading an article or watching something intriguing on social media. 

But where do you start?  And what yoga will work for you?  Are you looking to relax or restore, recover from sports, enhance movement efficiency, are you wanting to find more balance in your life and in your body? 

This can be a bit intimidating to begin a search, as there are a lot of options out there. Research the background of the teacher you decide to practice with, do they have experience teaching your age population? Do they value continuing education or have they been teaching the same outdated sequence for many years? Does the teacher have knowledge in anatomy, respiration, and mindfulness?  Take some time to research the teacher’s background and ensure you are with the best fit for your goals.

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF YOGA

I’m sure if I interviewed a handful of people and asked “What comes to mind when I say yoga?” The first answer that pops up for most usually is tagged with words turning the body into a human pretzel. I certainly do not advocate acquiring the ability to be uber flexy because my first revelation and still top reason for practicing yoga is how it shape my mental outlook. It has been a huge game changer for me.

Stress reduction has become one of the number one reasons why people are rolling out a yoga mat. In fact we have all known that physical activity contributes to relieving stress, but now more research and understanding about stress relates to our nervous system. Yoga’s quiet reflective quality has the capability to pull your focus away from busy daily responsibilities and toward a more calm state beyond even moving into asana (postures).

Mental Preparedness

Becoming mindful and creating a union with the body and the mind through breath awareness by setting an intention or Sankalpa. A Sankalpa is a sanskrit term in yogic philosophy that should uphold the deeper meaning of our life. A positive affirmation, intention, heartfelt motto or mantra that can be recited throughout the day without any movement involved. It’s an activity for re-shaping your mindset to influence your direction and highest purpose.

Examples of Sankalpas

  • I am that (so hum)

  • I choose focus

  • I believe change brings growth

  • I manifest happy

  • I am real

  • I am love

  • I cherish the present moment and enjoy it as enough

  • I trust the process

  • I am health and trust the practice is good for me

  • I lead among equals

I was fortunate enough to be a part of Yoga Tune Up Level 1 training a couple weeks ago. The training foundation is based on physical, scientific knowledge and how it relates to movement in conjunction with muscles, connective tissue, skeletal, and direction of movement. I love this aspect because it definitely took my knowledge to a deeper level but it also reinforced my first instinct that the mind is so important. It did not neglect the vital part of the ancient practice - starting with Sankalpa. We can’t forget that asana is important but and that working toward achieving an inversion or arm balance isn’t mentioning but how I sprinkle my Sankalpa through my daily life. Yoga Tune Up focus is placed on learning to become a student of your body. And I might add there is always room for more study.

Flexibility

Among the physical attributes a yoga practice provides, flexibility is sure to come up on top of the list of priorities. Moving well does not come without effort on our part and mobility is lost if we do not challenge it regularly. Yoga requires you to stretch your body in new and sometimes unfamiliar ways. Having a knowledgeable yoga teacher is important to guide you in exploring your end range of motion using muscular strength and discouraging soft tissue damage to ligaments and tendons. With more Americans practicing yoga, injuries are on the rise. Healthy motion in joints along with strengthening the muscles surrounding those areas while lengthening is a smart approach to ensure safety. Mobility is therefore enhanced and increased by following this strengthening component.

Posture

With greater flexibility and strength comes better posture. Because yoga develops core strength and body awareness. It helps keep bones and joints in the alignment so that muscles are being used properly. Good posture helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces. Decreasing the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together. it prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions. Strong posture plays a major role in preventing fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy. Posture that is ideal, prevents backache and muscular pain. It also contributes to a good appearance (insert visual of Quasimodo-the hunchback of Notre Dame).

Moving well and thinking positively is the building block to living a healthy, independent life.

Meet Ralph, 85, my new youngest at heart oldest client. He googled ‘Movement Specialist’ on the internet. He gave me a call and asked “Do you work with old geezers?”

Ralph Ray, 85, my newest, oldest but youngest at heart client.

Ralph Ray, 85, my newest, oldest but youngest at heart client.

I love his sense of humor and knew that his positive mindset would not be a factor in holding back his progress. He understands Sankalpa. His intuition led him to look for a movement teacher for techniques to “re-learn” how to get down to the floor and back up again. I have worked with him twice already and he is beyond inspiring!


Ralph is so independent that he is one of the few octogenarians, I know, who walks without a cane, drives a car and is excelling at the natural movement patterns that will help him reach his goals. His positive mental outlook will also serve him well.

I hope these reasons for practicing yoga continue to keep you rolling out your yoga mat, but even more importantly selecting a Sankalpa that allows growth and change and breathing life into that each and every day.

Namaste