August 9, 2011

Why Yoga? 10 Reasons to Get Down (Dog)

In every fitness plan I write for a client, I include either an entire yoga workout or some element of yoga in the program. For those who have never encountered yoga, this often elicits groans of dread or at best, some element of fear/uncertainty.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was once a yoga skeptic. I spent my undergraduate college years as a Pilates devotee, preaching the glory of the "long and lean" as I puffed through endless Hundreds and Teasers.

However, once I became a runner (yes, not until after college and well into adulthood!), I realized that I needed something more than "long and lean" - in fact, I needed something more like "stretched and strengthened" - and when I was invited to join friends at the world-renowned Bryan Kest Power Yoga, I jumped at the chance.

Unfortunately, my "jump" into a 90-minute advanced Vinyasa-style flow class resulted in an almost equally zealous renouncement of all things yogic.  I was overwhelmed, undertrained, and had no idea what was going on as all of these fit, flexible bodies bent and breathed around me. 

It was intimidating - and I didn't go back for two years.

Eventually, being derailed by the common runners' injuries of plantar fasciitis and ITBS drove me back to the yoga mat -and into Hatha yoga, a much gentler and slower form of yoga.  Soon, my injuries were gone, my posture had improved, and I gained strategies for coping with stress, tension, and tightness - all valuable life skills, whether you're an athlete or not.

Despite my story, I still struggle to convince both the hardcore athlete and the everyday gym-goer that yoga is worth their time.  We here at bene-fit truly believe in the power of yoga - which is why we offer private and semi-private instruction and pre/post-natal sessions -  and here are 10 reasons why we think you might want to consider it, too:

10) Yoga is for everybody - and we mean every body There is no yoga format that can't be adapted for age, injury, ability, flexibility, or any other physical concern you might have.
9) At the end of every yoga class is a "final relaxation," where you simply get to lie down for 5-15 minutes.  Bliss.
8) Yoga requires no equipment (in India, very few ashrams use the traditional mats we see in the U.S.), no special attire, and no prior training.
7) There are enough different styles of yoga to please every preference, from those who like their Zen with a side of Madonna to those who really just like to have a rest on a comfy pillow.
6) Yoga therapy can actually be used to treat some medical conditions such as depression or chronic pain.
5) If you're thinking about trying a marathon, triathlon, or other endurance event, put yoga on your training schedule - studies suggest it can improve cardiovascular performance and prevent injury.
4) Yoga can alleviate hunger and increase the mind-body connection that protects against chronic overeating.
3) Traditional yoga poses are named in Sanskrit, which means you can learn a cool new language full of words like supta baddha konasana (Goddess pose) and urdhva mukha svanasana (Upward Facing Dog pose).
2) Practicing yoga can increase blood flow to sexual organs and increase partner pleasure even in couples where only one member practices it.
1) Yoga is much more than purely physical - it speaks to the spirit, re-teaches you how to breathe, offers suggestions for de-stressing, and provides a quiet and peaceful environment for all who choose to practice.

Need more convincing?  Contact a bene-fit trainer or your local yoga studio for more information today - right now, you can get free one-week passes as a part of National Yoga Month, redeemable at hundreds of studios in September and October.  There's no better time to stretch, strengthen, and find your ZEN-ifit!

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