Cast aside your notions that yoga is for a certain type of person. Perhaps you picture Birkenstock-wearing, farmers’ market-shopping types finding their inner peace. Actually yoga predates any of these modern stereotypes and evidence of its practice dates as far back a 3000 B.C. – clearly people have understood the mental and physical health benefits for a long time.
Why am I recommending yoga? As we age the effects of compounded stress can be extremely taxing on our overall health. Yoga, with its poses and focus on breathing, can begin to relieve stress, which can then hopefully lessen the risk of heart conditions. Yoga, practiced with consistency, has been linked to lower blood pressure according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania.
The most commonly seen form of Yoga is called Hatha, which is based on a series of poses called Asanas. Holding these poses and working on controlled breathing yields immediate tangible benefits – including sleeping better.
What’s also great about yoga is that it requires very little equipment or money. A mat is a nice extra, but all you need are some comfortable clothes and a bit of space. You can choose a yoga studio or take classes at your gym, but another alternative is practicing at home with either a book or video instruction. Tara Stiles’ four DVD set This is Yoga has earned acclaim from health and fitness magazine reviewers.
While challenging, yoga is not about competition. You can use rectangular blocks to help you with poses (or postures) if you aren’t as flexible as the girl on the Lululemon poster. No matter what shape you are in you can practice yoga effectively. After awhile it starts to feel really good and everyday motions feel better, so it’s a sustainable exercise form.
I’m certainly not discouraging vigorous exercise if you enjoy it, but yoga can help improve your everyday health and serve as an outlet for tension and stress. It’s physical activity that makes your body feel better as you get older.