The Upside of Downward Dog: Yoga’s a Real Treat

Breathe.

It sounds funny to focus on something we do without thinking.    But how often are you still and present enough to focus on your own breath?

Try Yoga, and you may start paying attention to that – and more.  I know – you’ve seen devotees everywhere.  Sporting trendy workout wear, sipping green herbal tea and oh-so-calmly waiting in line while the clerk chats away with customers.  But you don’t have to pricey duds to enjoy the benefits of this age-old practice.

Just what is Yoga, Anyway?

First, Yoga is a discipline.  The sanskrit word literally means “to join.”   The practice of Yoga seeks to integrate the mind, body and spirit. When practiced, exercises, or “poses” apply pressure to the glandular systems.  Yoga’s instrument, your own body, provides gentle resistance through which strengthening, and calming of the mind, achieves greater overall health.

Origins:

 

Yoga’s exact origin is unknown.  However, stone carvings depicting figures practicing Yoga positions have been found in archeological sites dating back 5,000 years or more.  While popular culture seems to embrace Yoga’s origins in Hinduism, their religious structure was formed long after – though Hinduism does incorporate Yoga poses into worship practices.

Benefits:

In short:  practicing Yoga soothes our messy and distracted minds and strengthens and lengthens our bodies.  Improved balance, agility, inner calm and strength are just a few of the health benefits.  Yoga provides weight-bearing exercise necessary to build strong bones, minus the toll on the joints as other cardiovascular exercise.  One of the primary benefits is the practice of focusing on the breath, which Yoga asserts is the source of life. Many who practice say they feel more at peace, with a renewed ability to focus.

Wouldn’t that be a switch from the the roar of life’s demands?

Who can Practice Yoga?

Because Yoga is neither competitive nor arduous in nature, most people across age and physical stature can participate.  A few guidelines:

Pregnant Women: While relaxation techniques and breathing exercises are recommended for pregnant women, Yoga is typically not, due to the risk of air embolism during extended poses.

Children: The American Yoga Association (AYA) maintains Yoga is beneficial only for children 16 and older.  Because children’s glandular systems (which control growth) are maturing, some Yoga poses may pose a threat to younger children.  The AYA does advocate the benefits of breathing and relaxation techniques as a way for children to cope with anxiety, impulsiveness and inattentiveness.

Grab a Mat and Get Going!

You don’t need a glitzy spandex outfit, and you don’t have to break the bank to get started with Yoga.  The only supplies you really need include your body, a soft mat or towel, comfortable clothing, water, and a starter DVD.  You could also take a class locally; I recommend the following:

Inner Vision Yoga: Studios in Chandler and Tempe

Hot Yoga Ahwatukee:  Shop at Trader Joe’s and then head on over!

Soon enough you’ll learn to love “Child’s” pose and master “Tree” pose with the prowess of a spirited and centered “Yogi.”  But don’t rush it.  You’re only competing with yourself, so be gentle.

Onward and upward with Downward Dog!!