Using your body to quiet your mind
Yoga, an ancient form of exercise involving stretching and holding various poses, may look like something just designed to give your body a workout—and it does—but looks can be deceiving. Yoga is also about calming your mind by deliberately focusing on the present moment as you move and hold various poses and positions. It actually uses the body as a tool to help you quiet your thoughts and reduce the mental noise in your head. Some yoga practitioners consider it a form of meditation, particularly since it can offer many of the same stress-relieving benefits.
For those who have never tried yoga, the idea may seem daunting, especially for older people or those with limited mobility and flexibility. But rest assured, there is a form of yoga for almost everyone! There are classes for beginnings, seniors, and even people with arthritis (where some poses are done seated in chairs and work may focus on hand and arm movements). It’s worth checking your local community centre, seniors’ centre, yoga studio, YMCA or gym to find out what classes are available in your area.
Benefits of yoga
Why consider taking up yoga? According to WebMD1 and NursingDegree.net2, regular yoga may:
- Decrease blood pressure
- Improve circulation
- Increase pain tolerance
- Increase cardiovascular endurance
- Improve your immune system
- Improve your posture, strength and balance
- Improve the quality of your sleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Give you a more positive outlook on life
- Strengthen memory and concentration skills
- Improve muscle tone
- Improve range of motion in your joints
- Make you more mindful of your breathing, which can help you relax
- Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Strengthen your core muscles
You may have heard about different kinds of yoga, like Bikram, Hatha and Ananda. That’s because there are several different ways to practice yoga. Restorative yoga, for example, focuses on allowing the muscles in the body to relax, so you spend most of the time lying down using blocks, bolsters and blankets to keep you in specific relaxing positions. Ashtanga yoga, by contrast, is a physically demanding form of yoga designed to make you sweat.
But all this variety means that you can choose the kind of yoga that works best for you and your unique needs and goals. MatsMatsMats.com provides a great overview to help you get familiar with the different types available.
As always, it’s best to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise regime, but odds are your doctor will approve of your desire to get more physical activity, reduce stress and improve your overall physical well being.
For some great tips to help you feel more comfortable about going to your first yoga class, visit here.
412014B CAN/US (06/15)