This is the first article in a periodic series where I will give my honest opinion on exercises, eating habits, and other health-related activities. These articles will be about activities that are new to me personally and I will share my thoughts on them as a health professional.
Over the summer, I went to a free, outdoor yoga event at a local baseball field. It was a light-intensity workout that lasted about 45 minutes, and I enjoyed it very much. While I was there, I received a certificate for a free week of yoga at a local studio. Since the certificate was good for the rest of the year, I decided to use it in December when the weather became cold.
About a month ago, I started with the intention to try the different yoga classes and attend more than one a day, if possible. They had 30 minute, 45 minute, and one hour classes. The classes were based on yoga basics, power yoga, and Baptiste Power Vinyasa. I noticed quickly how much of a challenge yoga can truly be. Even simple poses like “Upward Salute” were fairly intense when following the correct technique (stretching hands towards the sky, lifting through the torso, shoulders back, and fingers spread apart). It focused not just on improving flexibility, but also strengthening the entire body as well.
Even with just one week of yoga, I could feel specific benefits. I am already a flexible person, but I did notice a slight improvement. I also noticed an improvement to my balance. Yoga can put you into unorthodox positions in which good balance is required. It can be easy to forget that yoga is a form of strength exercise and is a great tool to make your entire body stronger and more structured. Also, I enjoyed the end of our classes were we took a few minutes to lie down on our backs and relax with a lavender water-soaked facecloth resting on our eyes. It was a nice way to calm down and relax after a fairly intense workout before leaving class.
After my week was finished, I realized there are great benefits that people of all ages and abilities can receive from yoga. I believe that people who are not comfortable lifting weights or enjoy conventional gyms would benefit the most from this type of exercise. Due to the amount of stretching, holding poses, and the body strength required, it is also great for improving posture and relieving joint pain by improving joint-supporting muscles. While you are unlikely to bulk up through yoga alone, it will definitely help you become leaner.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed my classes during that week and continue to practice at home on my own many of the poses that I learned. I hope to return soon because I liked having instructors giving feedback in a small group environment. I already have a new yoga mat for when I get the chance to return. If you have an interest in yoga or want to improve your physical activity away from the gym, then have an open mind and give it try.
CHES, ACE Health Coach, AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant