Imagine an activity that increases your flexibility, strengthens your muscles, centers your thoughts, and relaxes and calms you. Yoga does all that and more!
I remember my first yoga class. I wasn’t concerned about being able to do the poses, but I was a bit sceptical about the chanting and the spiritual side of it. I remember sneaking a peek every few moments while all eyes were supposed to be closed to see what everyone else was doing. It turned out that the chanting and meditative breathing was a valuable part of the experience for me. It took a couple of sessions to get the hang of it, but once I did, it centred and calmed me and I felt great about it. I even remember sweating less while walking outdoors as the result of just feeling calmer.
Yoga uses asanas (postures), focused concentration on specific body parts, and pranayama(breathing techniques) to integrate the body with mind and mind with soul.
Yoga focuses on the mind by teaching you to concentrate on specific parts of the body. For instance, you may be asked by the instructor to focus deeply on your spine, or let your mind go and have your body sink into the floor. This awareness keeps the mind-body connection sharp and doesn’t allow a lot of time for external chatter (like worrying about what you’re going to have for dinner or the presentation at the office that you’re preparing for). Instead, the focus is internal, between your head and your body.
The idea is to not fight any thoughts you have, but to let them come and go while the instructor leads you through visual imagery to help you focus on how your muscles feel. The desired and often obtained result is to drift into a peaceful, calm, and relaxing state.
Yoga uses controlled breathing as a way to merge the mind, body, and spirit.
It is believed that the controlled breathing will control the energy flow in your body. It is my experience that controlled breathing helps me focus on muscles that are working, it slows down my heart rate, calms my mind, and leads to a deep, inner calm and sense of relaxation.
BENEFITS OF YOGA:
High blood pressure (hypertension): Many people believe that practicing yoga can help lower blood pressure by teaching breathing techniques and reducing stress. It is true that lifestyle changes like regular physical activity and stress management can help lower and manage blood pressure, but it doesn’t do so in all cases.
Mood: After just one yoga class, men reported decreases in tension, fatigue, and anger after yoga, and women reported fairly similar mood benefits.
Diabetes: There is some evidence to suggest that yoga may lower blood glucose. After just eight days of yoga in 98 men and women 20-74 years of age, fasting glucose was better than at the beginning of the study, but subjects in this study were also exposed to dietary counselling and other lifestyle interventions, and so it’s difficult to know if the yoga on its own was responsible for the changes.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who did yoga twice a week for eight weeks had less pain in their wrists than people with carpal tunnel who wore a splint. The effect may be due to improved grip strength in the yoga subjects.
Strength and flexibility: In one of the most persuasive yoga studies, men and women 18-27 years of age who participated in two yoga sessions per week for eight weeks increased the strength in their arms by 19% to 31%, and by 28% in their legs. Their ankle flexibility, shoulder elevation, trunk extension, and trunk flexion increased by 13%, 155%, 188%, and 14%, respectively!
Asthma: There is some evidence to show that reducing symptoms of asthma and even reduction in asthma medication are the result of regular yoga. Again, this doesn’t mean that you should stop taking your asthma medication if you start practicing yoga, but it does suggest that there could be some positive result, and you should ask your doctor if you have a question about it.
My experience with yoga is that, when I do it regularly, I am calmer, clearer, and feel good for having done it.
I recommend starting with a basic class. At Pro A3 Fitness we offer these, and all you need to do is walk in on Wednesday evenings at 7-8pm or Friday mornings at 8am to 9am for Yoga classes. I also suggest letting the instructor know if you are a first-timer so she can give you a hand when you need it. Carmen, an awesome and helpful instructor will keep an eye on you and physically assist you with poses if you need it. It can make all the difference in the world if the instructor pays attention when you’re struggling.
Go for it!
Yoga is a great complement to Zumba or aerobic and resistance exercise, and I suggest that you might be completely surprised at the benefits you experience. I don’t see how you have anything to lose, and so I urge you to give it a try at Pro A3 Fitness: Wednesday 7.00 – 8.00 pm and Friday 8.00 – 9.00 am. Walk in is only Rm8.00!