I love the holiday season but my waist line does not! If this was summer I would simply run it off however, this is winter and I’m a whimp. I do not own a treadmill nor do I have a gym membership so that leaves my options limited. So, naturally, I started to explore alternative exercise methods that I can do at home and have recently fallen in love with yoga. I tried yoga years ago when I was a freshman in college but did not have the patience to truly practice it. Now that I am older (and wiser) I have a new found love for it. Although running will always be my go-to workout, I find yoga is a nice addition and will definitely help with my running once the weather gets warm again.
Benefits: Yoga provides many benefits both physically and mentally. The physical benefits are more objective such as increased flexibility, building muscle strength/endurance, and improves posture by realigning the spine. The mental benefits are not so objective and may vary from person to person but typically yoga helps to release tension in your limbs which gives you a sense of stress reduction and an overall feeling of happiness. Furthermore, certain poses can help regulate your adrenal glands (these are the glands responsible for releasing the stress hormone cortisol) and by concentrating on breathing and holding poses, yoga can help with improving focus. There are so many more benefits of yoga and if you are interested in learning more I suggest reading 38 Health Benefits of Yoga by Yoga Journal.
My Yoga: I try to do yoga 2-3 times a week but sometimes I find myself wanting to do more. I wouldn’t call myself a true yoga practitioner and I will admit that sometimes I skip the parts that focus on breathing or meditating. However, I really like how yoga makes me feel limber and relaxed afterwards. I am really starting to notice a difference with how less tight my hip flexors and hamstrings feel and the fact that overall I feel more toned.
Like I mentioned above, I started getting into yoga because it was something I could do at home without a lot of equipment. I tried following a yoga DVD but I didn’t like how I was restricted to the same routine every time (unless I wanted to buy multiple DVDs) and sometimes I didn’t have access to the television (thanks husband). So instead, I downloaded the Firstar Yoga app. There are pros and cons to this app but overall it has worked well for me. It is free to download but you can upgrade to the premium version for $39.99. The free version gives you access to limited freestyle workouts or limited weekly custom workouts while the premium version grants you more access to both. This is a good app if you already have some knowledge of poses.
In addition to the app, I purchased The Yoga Deck (by Olivia H. Miller) which is basically yoga flashcards. This is a nice tool for beginners because it’s self paced and breaks the poses down for you. You also have the freedom to chose which poses you want to do and how long you want to hold each pose for. The downside is you have to do all the thinking and preparation for the workout. I mostly rely on the Fitstar app but if I am in a hurry and only have time for a few poses than I will use the flashcards.
Here are a few of my favorite poses (pictures/information courtesy of The Yoga Deck):
Kneeling lunge- helps to relieve lower back pain and sciatica strengthens thighs and legs, relieves anxiety and tension, and increases energy and mental clarity. A good pose if you spend a lot of time sitting.
Warrior- improves flexibility of the torso, strengthens the feet, ankles, knees, and legs, elongates the spine, opens the hip area, and increases endurance and stamina.
Child- rejuvenates the body, completely refreshes the back and spine, massages the inner organs, and promotes a sense of security and nurturing. (I like this pose to reset between hard poses)
Downward Dog- aligns the spinal column, releases tension in the shoulders stretches and lengthens the hamstrings, and lengthens and increases flexibility in the Achilles tendons.
I hope this post has inspired everyone to give yoga a try; you won’t be disappointed!