So you’ve thought about doing yoga in the past, but something always stops you. Perhaps you don’t think you can do it because you can’t touch your toes and have absolutely no flexibility. Or maybe you think yoga can’t do anything for you, after all what’s yoga when you can bench your own body weight?

I hate to tell you this, but you’re wrong. On both accounts.

Yoga can benefit anybody and everybody, and you don’t need any special skill set or physical ability to start practicing. All you need is your body and a little bit of time. If you have a mat and blocks, even better, but they aren’t necessary.

What Yoga Is

Yoga, which means “union” in Sanskrit, is a 5,000 year old practice that began in India. Yoga has multiple facets, but primarily focuses on breathing, postures, flexibility, and meditation. It not only gives you a mind-body connection, but also improves flexibility and strength, balance and coordination, and is a great stress reliever.

Types of Yoga

While there are too many different types of yoga to detail here, there are those that are more common. Power Yoga is a fast-paced routine that moves from one movement to the next without holding each position. Hatha Yoga, which is one of the most commonly seen in the US, is done at a slower pace with focus on the correct form of poses. Each position is held for a brief period of time and it is one of the best for beginners. Vinyasa Yoga is more about about the body and breath connection and includes some in-depth stretching.

What Yoga Does for You

Yoga isn’t about learning to bend yourself into a pretzel. It’s about becoming aware of your body, its movements, and the connection it has to the rest of your life.

  • Relieves stress: With such a heavy focus on breathing, it’s not surprising yoga has a calming effect on its practitioners. You not only learn body relaxation techniques, but the actual process of doing yoga also relaxes the mind.
  • Builds muscle: Because yoga involves a lot of stretching, it increases the hypertrophy your muscles experience. This means that your muscles develop quicker and stronger. And since yoga does move you in ways you typically do not move, it helps to focus on the underdeveloped muscles that are often ignored in common cardio and lifting routines.
  • Prevents injuries: When you do yoga on a regular basis, you are well stretched and have an increased range of motion. Your muscles are more flexible and you learn your body in a way you haven’t experienced before. Because of this new awareness, and the healthy muscles, not only are you less likely to experience an injury, but if you do, your muscles are able to recover at a quicken pace.
  • Calms the mind: Yoga forces you to slow down. You learn to focus on your breathing and the slight movements of your body. You learn to breathe deep and relax with your breath. Studies have shown that those who practice yoga regularly have a significant decrease in clinical depression and sleep better than those who don’t. Just 20 minutes of yoga a day can improve your mood and has shown to stimulate brain function.

How to Start

Ready to get started? Well, grab your mat and let’s go. Find a local class and join in. Don’t feel intimidated. Everyone was a beginner at some point. And one of the best things about yoga is it’s not a competition. You don’t have to keep up with those around you. Yoga is a test of strength against yourself and you determine how hard it is you’ll work.

If you don’t want to hit a class, there are still ways to enjoy the practice. Start at home with a friend or on your own by using DVDs or YouTube. There’s a wide range of styles, so if you don’t like one, don’t give up. Just try another. Soon, you’ll be looking forward to your time on the mat, and be wondering why it took you so long to get started.

 


Do you practice yoga? What motivated you to start? Share you thoughts and opinions in the comments. We want to know what you think!


Additional Image: graham / Flickr

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Molly Carter
Molly Carter
Molly is a freelance writer who talks about everything and anything from addiction, to sex. to skinning a deer. You can find her at MollyCarterWriter.com, or Facebook.