When it comes to health fads, I am guilty as charged. I have tried to juice, jog, Zumba, and cleanse my way to better health. Some things worked well, and others – well, not so much. So, when I finally decided to try yoga, it occurred to me that perhaps I was just falling in lust for yet another knight in shining armor of health fads. Easy come easy go. However, after a few weeks of attending classes 3 times a week, I must say I felt good – really good.
Since the 1970’s, when yoga started to gain traction in the United States, it has shifted from a niche activity of devout new agers to part of the cultural mainstream, becoming more than a 27 billion dollar industry. As it turns out, America’s impression of what yoga is, is only the posture-focused posing and most common form, asana. There are over 100 forms of yoga, and historically, yoga is a comprehensive spiritual path, a way of living and achieving enlightenment. Admittedly, I only engaged in asana, but it had a profound effect on how I felt and I feel compelled to share it.
Yoga Reduced My Stress
At first, the poses were extremely difficult. I trembled as I dripped with sweat, struggling to maintain the correct pose, and more importantly, struggling to not topple over. After a few sessions, I began to gain strength and flexibility. I was able to use the struggle to focus on the moment and on my breathing. My body would relax, gently releasing tension from my muscles and flushing my body and brain with fresh blood, oxygen and other nutrients. This release extended beyond the classroom and into the rest of my day, reducing my anxiety and stress.
Yoga Helped Me Lose Weight
Obviously, exercising a few times a week will help you lose weight, but as it turns out, yoga reduces cortisol levels. When your cortisol levels are high, the body actually resists weight loss. So, in addition to getting physical exercise, it helps put your body in a position to not put on additional weight. It may have only been a few pounds in a couple of weeks but it was still a few pounds!
Yoga Made Me More Conscious of My Choices
Once I started to feel better and look better, I found myself taking pause to think about my food and lifestyle choices. Walking the isles of the grocery store, I thought about the improvements in my body and increase in my mood. My refrigerator began to fill with nutrient dense foods and my pantry thinned of quick carbs and sugar. Knowing that I had a class the next morning kept me from having that glass of wine or piece of chocolate. I’m still not perfect, but even if I “cheated,” I felt ok about it because I was bringing a better balance to my life.
Why is yoga so good for you?. For all the reasons above, and more. I thought yoga might be another trend and although it is trendy right now, its roots extend into thousands of years ago. Its methods have been tried and perfected by generations. Modern science is backing its practices, and confirming its many health benefits. I am excited to continue to see what it could do for me, and I encourage you to give a chance.