9 Reasons Why You Should Start a Yoga Practice!

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Hi!  Welcome to #FitFriday!  I was recently reminiscing about the time I started contemplating a yoga practice.  First, I started by conducting research to consider the benefits involved.  Then, I started sharing my findings with my husband.  I remember discussing it with him.  He and I were at Disneyworld enjoying the beautiful parks--and having our normal conversations about life and family, during our daily two mile walk.  We were talking about our health and fitness goals and planning for the future.  We discussed the fact that we would need to build stamina and strength to keep up with our future grandchildren! I was thinking of the need to be flexible and have a healthy neck, back and spine.  When our children were young, as a family, we spent countless hours outside doing sports, swimming, gardening and other physical activities.  As I visualized my future interactions with my grandkids, I imagined sharing similar types of adventures with them.  I realized that I needed to make some changes to my endurance, strength and flexibility.  I thought yoga sounded like the perfect fit to accomplish my health and fitness goals.  In fact, according to Johns Hopkins, yoga has 9 primary benefits.  They include the following:

1)  Yoga improves strength, balance and flexibility.  Slow movements and deep breathing increase blood flow and warm up muscles, while holding a pose can build strength.  

2)  Yoga helps with back pain relief.  Yoga is as good as basic stretching for easing pain and improving mobility in people with lower back pain.  The American College of Physicians recommends yoga as a first-line treatment for chronic low back pain.  

3)  Yoga can ease arthritis symptoms.  Gentle yoga has been shown to ease some of the discomfort of tender, swollen joints for people with arthritis, according to a Johns Hopkins review.

4)  Yoga benefits heart health.  Regular yoga practice may reduce levels of stress and body-wide inflammation, contributing to healthier hearts.  Several of the factors contributing to heart disease, including high blood pressure and excess weight, can also be addressed through yoga.

5)  Yoga relaxes you, to help you sleep better.  Research shows that a consistent bedtime yoga routine can help you get in the right mindset and prepare your body to fall asleep and stay asleep.

6)  Yoga can mean more energy and brighter moods.  You may feel increased mental and physical energy, a boost in alertness and enthusiasm, and fewer negative feelings after getting into a routine of practicing yoga.

7)  Yoga helps you manage stress.  According to the National Institutes of Health, scientific evidence shows that yoga supports stress management, mental health, mindfulness, healthy eating, weight loss and quality sleep.

8)  Yoga connects you with a supportive community.  Participating in yoga classes can ease loneliness and provide an environment for group healing and support.  Even during one-on-one sessions loneliness is reduced as one is acknowledged as a unique individual, being listened to and participating in the creation of a personalized yoga plan.

9)  Yoga promotes better self care.  

If you want to try yoga, why not find a comfortable spot and begin now?  One of the best poses to get you started is cat pose.  Cat pose sets the stage for many of the postures you will encounter later on as you progress in your yoga practice.  In its simplest form, it flexes the spine, stretches down the back, and strengthens the core.  Here are step by step instructions:

*Begin with your hips directly over your knees.  Your hands should be shoulder-distance apart and slightly ahead of your shoulders.  The wrist creases should be parallel to the front of the mat.

*Press down firmly through your hands.

*Exhale and round your spine toward the ceiling.  Drop the crown of your head and your tailbone.  Draw your lower belly in and up.  

*Push the floor away with your hands to broaden across your shoulder blades.

*Keep your hips over your knees and your arms straight to keep the movement in your spine.

*To release the pose, return to a neutral spine.

*Be sure to initiate movement from your spine and hips, not your arms.

*If this pose hurts your knees, place a blanket under them for padding.  Now, you are well on your way to beginning a regular yoga practice.  

Check back next week for more simple and easy yoga poses to get you started towards a regular yoga routine.  See you soon!   Warmly, Susan