Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Yoga is for Everyone. Even You!

Last March, HealthLine.com's  journalist, Leslie Vandever,  wrote this article It Doesn't Hurt: Natural Ways to Treat Pain as a guest contributor to my blog. This year, Ms. Vandever has contributed another guest-blog post about Yoga.  I am honored to host HealthLine.com and Ms. Vandever. I do hope you enjoy! Namaste.

Yoga is for Everyone. Even You!

By Leslie Vandever

What image does the word “yoga” conjure in your mind?

If you imagine a slender, attractive young woman bending her lithe, flexible, perfect body into pretzel-like positions with an expression of blank tranquility on her face and a Mona Lisa smile on her lips, you’re not alone.

Most people associate yoga with people who are young and in peak physical condition. They don’t have flab, weak muscles, love handles, or double chins. They don’t suffer from a chronic illness or have chronic pain. Their bellies are pancake flat and their legs are long and steely. They have perfect behinds and prefer bean sprouts and chickpeas to cheeseburgers and french fries.

But this image of the average yoga practitioner is wrong. You don’t need to be young, healthy, strong, thin and ultra-flexible to practice yoga. All you need is your body—in whatever shape and condition it happens to be in at the moment—and a desire to learn, along with an open mind.

Don’t forget that most yogis and yoginis (male and female practitioners) don’t start out strong, lithe, and fit. Just like you, they came to yoga with a not-perfect body. They, like you, approached it with a sense of curiosity—and a rather serious doubt that they would ever be able to bend like that, because at the time, they couldn’t. But with patience and calm perseverance, their bodies learned, adapted, and changed, growing strong and fit. Yoga is a mind/body practice, one that changes with the individual.

Created in India more than 5,000 years ago, yoga is a meditative movement practice that branched into many styles over time. The most common style in the U.S. is hatha yoga. It combines breathing techniques, physical postures (or “asanas”), and meditation, aiming for physical strength and stamina, mental peace and balance, and good overall health.

Yoga incorporates a philosophy, taken from Buddhist and Hindu teachings, that promotes spiritual growth and mastery over the body and mind. It is not a religion and it doesn’t challenge your beliefs or require you to change them.

The practice of yoga will help you become more flexible. It will stretch and strengthen your muscles and increase the range of movement in your limbs. It will teach you to breathe so that every breathe counts, and improve your balance. You’ll increase your endurance and stamina, as well. And if you have pain, a chronic illness, or you’re overweight, with modifications yoga can still fit your needs. It may even reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. It may lessen anxiety and depression. It can improve overall physical fitness, relieve stress, and enhance your quality of life. Yoga can fit almost any physical limitation, and it can help relieve pain and improve physical function.

Almost anyone can do yoga. Fat, thin, young, old, middle-aged, male, or female, it can work for you.

Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.

·         Haaz, S. and Bartlett, S. J. Yoga for Arthritis: A Scoping Review. (2010, Dec. 3) Rheumatic Disease Clinics. Retrieved on March 11, 2015 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3026480/
·         Yoga for Health. (2013, June) National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on March 11, 2015 from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm

·         Yoga 101; The Beginner’s Guide to Practice, Meditation, and the Sutras. ( 2014, Oct. 7) Yoga Journal. Retrieved on March 11, 2015 from http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/yoga-questions-answered/

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