I am often asked by new students how many times a week should they practice to “nail” their chaturanga, arm balance or inversion. My answer is always the same. Be safe and start slow. Practice once or twice a week, see how the body feels and increase the days of practice from there. The benefits of a regular practice go far beyond perfecting a plank, crow or handstand.
Stress and anxiety are so prevalent in today’s society. Both can have many negative effects on people such as impatience, frustration, irritation, anger, tension, neck pain, back pain, headaches and indigestion. I realize that there is no magical way to escape the stresses that present themselves on a daily basis but it is important to find ways to cope, so we can all live a happy and full life. Yoga can be a healthy strategy to help us minimize our stress and anxiety levels. When we practice regularly we learn to relax and breath deeply even in challenging postures. This creates a physiological and mental response known as the “Relaxation Response” bringing your system back into balance and in turn reducing stress hormones, slowing down heart rate and blood pressure and relaxing muscles. When we take this practice of active relaxation off the mat and in to our hectic lives it can lead to a reduction in everyday stress leaving you more calm and settled.
Yoga also has many other physiological benefits. Studies show that it can relieve the symptoms of arthritis, arteriosclerosis, fatigue and other illness. Moving the body regularly but safely increases blood flow, functional mobility, flexibility and strengthens the bones. Watching the breath helps to lengthen the inhale and deepen the exhale. This awareness of breathing helps to achieve slower respiration and aids in relaxation and pain management leaving you with an increased positive outlook and energy level.
Healthy weight management is another plus that comes along with getting on your mat regularly. There are several postures that stimulate the thyroid gland which has a big effect on our weight because it affects the body’s metabolism. As well, some types of yoga will work your cardiovascular system, improve your muscle tone and strengthen your core.
Yoga can even prevent and reverse the signs of aging. One of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy body is a flexible spine. Yoga maintains and prolongs the elasticity of the spinal column. The shortening and rounding of the spine is a clear give away of aging. A regular yoga practice develops spinal strength and flexibility, slowing and even reversing the degenerative changes found in people as they age.
If you haven’t tried Yoga I encourage you to. If you have tried a class and disliked it please try a different kind of practice or a different teacher. I believe there is a style of yoga for everyone.
Some classes that you will see on Spynga’s upcoming schedule are Vinyasa including Chakra Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative and Hot Yoga. Try one or all of them out. If you are looking to expand your practice or be a future yoga instructor keep your eyes open for Spynga’s Yoga Teacher Training coming this Fall.
I look forward to meeting you on the mat! Love, Lisa Barkin