Is Yoga Really for Everyone???
Curious about the benefits of yoga you’ve been hearing so much about? What I’ve learned about yoga has changed my life.
The popularity of yoga has grown over the last 2-3 decades, but still seems to be hitting a bottleneck due possibly to the image most people have of yoga. Until recently, yoga was seen as something engaged in by skinny, limber people. But what if I told you yoga is universal and you very well could find it the answer to your workout dilemmas.
Let me explain. I don’t recall exactly how I started. I became interested in yoga after cancer. I read a lot about the healing properties of yoga, as well as the physical fitness aspects. I think it all started when I bought some barre dvds to get my physical strength back without killing myself. While doing barre, I realized it incorporated a lot of yoga concepts. What I didn’t realize is how life-changing all of this would be for me.
Somewhere in there I picked up some books and magazines and a DVD or two, and started learning about yoga. At first I was completely overwhelmed by the different styles of yoga. There was vinyasa, yin, hatha, Iyengar, ashtanga, kundalini, anusara and bikram. Having zero knowledge about yoga or its styles, I was determined to learn. And so, I did. The hard way; by trial and error. The good thing was I didn’t force it or try too hard. Thus, I did not incur any injuries. And this is what brings me to the answer to my question of whether yoga is for everyone.
Over the past three years I’ve experimented with most of the yoga styles. What I’ve learned is that yoga is not only a form of meditation and a form of physical activity that pretty much everyone can do. I also learned that yoga offers opportunity for movement no matter what my physical state. I am currently on a running hiatus due to managing some post-cancer treatment side effects that have led to a serious case of anemia. When I tried adding running back into my routine, it made the anemia worse because running taxes the body more and requires more iron to due increased use of iron. So, now I’m in a rebuilding phase, which could take up to a year due to the severity of my iron deficiency. The bright spot in all of this is my yoga practice.
Yoga as a Go-to
We all have days where we just don’t have the energy or strength to run, bike, workout, or even consider a walk that rises to the level of exercise. Or maybe you wake up achy and tight and you know you will be lucky to get through the morning to unstiffen everything. That is where yoga has been a lifesaver for me.
The difference between yoga and everything else I have ever done for “exercise” is in the flexibility and range of engagement. For example, with running I either run or I don’t. Sure, I can go slower or faster, but it’s still running and it still takes a lot of energy. If your muscles and joints are screaming “no,” then that’s the end of it. But with yoga, I still have a way to be active regardless of how my body is feeling.
When I’m at my best, running and vinyasa yoga (a more active, fluid movement-intensive practice) is invigorating. Right now, I am engaging in yin and hatha yoga daily to stay flexible and strong. Yin yoga is a restorative form of yoga. It’s relaxing and rejuvenating. I like yin yoga on a lazy Sunday morning as a way to start my week by hitting the reset button. The days I am tired and low on energy I use yin to give me a gentle boost. The rest of the time (for now), I’m doing hatha yoga. Again, not working up a sweat here, but really lengthening, loosening and stretching to keep my muscles warm and moving.
I have been practicing yoga for three years now. The benefits I have obtained are numerous. I have more strength, flexibility and ability to relax. I rarely, if ever, get delayed onset muscle soreness. Even after moving, lifting heaving boxes and furniture, I had no recovery period. When I’m running, yoga keeps my hamstrings loose and has taught me how to focus on my breathing to keep my heart rate in check and not become short of breath. Yoga helps undo my aches from sitting at a computer all day as well. There isn’t much I can’t undo with a focused yoga routine. I just choose the style that fits my physical needs. I don’t know any other type of exercise that can accomplish so much with such accommodation.
If you would like to learn more about getting started with yoga, here’s a link to an article to learn more. I subscribe to the partner website for their top yoga instructors. They have become a daily companion to me. I’ve shelled out a lot of money in health club memberships during my lifetime. My monthly yoga subscription is the best money I’ve ever spent, as I use it every day. In-person yoga is great for getting hands-on direction and learning the poses properly. However, if that is cost prohibitive or you don’t have a yoga studio near you, there are several quality websites out there offering subscriptions to full access of yoga videos. Most offer free trials. If you decide you want to give yoga a try, I encourage you to explore all the options and pick the one that resonates with you. I chose my subscription because I felt connected to the teachers. Find your favorite yogis and you’ll find freedom in movement.
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Yours in Wellness,