By Jeremy Engels
Thanks to Jeremy for contributing to our “Focus Point of the Week” series. Jeremy and his wife Anna, both One on One clients, will soon be providing both yoga classes and individual yoga instruction. Stay tuned for details!
So, what’s the deal with yoga?
It seems like yoga is everywhere today. There are yoga studios on almost every corner, and phrases such as “downward dog” and “namaste” and “om” have entered our everyday vocabulary. A 2012 study showed that over 20 million Americans practice yoga, and spent nearly 10.3 billion dollars on yoga classes and products.[i] I can only guess that these numbers have continued to increase exponentially in the intervening three years.
So, again, what’s the deal with yoga?
Yoga is a physical practice in which we increase the body’s natural flexibility and strength by practicing postures (asana). When practicing yoga we are also interested in learning how to breathe more deeply, fully, and easily. Yoga breathing is called pranayama. Because breathing happens automatically, we are often not aware of how we are breathing and how our breath is related to our mental states. By bringing our attention to the quality of our breathing, yoga helps us to bring our breath under control. Next time you’re anxious or stressed, pay attention to how you are breathing. We bet that you’ll be breathing shallowly and quickly into your chest. Try slowing your breath and moving it down into your belly—as you slow down your breath, your mind will follow.
Yoga is based on a number of principles. Yoga teaches that we shouldn’t hate our bodies, even though we want to improve our health; that we shouldn’t be so consumed with ambition and the desire to change that we lose sight of the joy of the present moment; and that through the practice of physical postures and the awareness of breath we can calm our agitated minds. By moving our bodies with the breath, yoga helps us manage stress and relax. The calming effects of yoga have been scientifically documented.[ii] And who doesn’t want to reduce the stress in their life?
In the end, yoga teaches us to live in a state of greater ease, especially in moments of frustration and challenge. People have been benefiting from yoga for thousands of years, and you could benefit, too.
You don’t need to be super flexible or fit to start practicing yoga. All you need is your interest, and a willingness to give it a shot.
[ii] William J. Broad, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012).
Copyright 2011 Fitness Consultants Inc. All rights reserved.