Something New for the New Year

By Nicole Flanagan

yogamountainposeJanuary marks the beginning of a new year, and for most of us that means some type of resolution to do something different for the next twelve months. So far this winter has been rather kind to us and for the most part we have been able to keep our outdoor workouts alive. However, if your old workout routine is starting to seem uninspiring, try something new to start the year off on a good note.

People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years. There is a reason this ancient practice has been around for so long. There are many benefits of practicing yoga that go far beyond the physical aspect. Yoga can help you balance your mind and spirit as well as your body. When the mind is clear and the body feels balanced, it is easier to face the challenges of each day regardless of what they may be. Many people work out because it makes them feel better. Yoga is certainly a workout, but in a different way than going to a gym and lifting or cycling. It is physically challenging, yet relaxing at the same time.

Yoga is a great way to stay in shape. The postures tone organs and develop long, lean muscles. The practice of forward bends, back bends, lateral poses, twists, and inversions, balances and works every muscle, bone, joint, and organ in the body. Yoga can improve circulation of blood and lymph throughout the body. Inversions such as a headstand reverse the flow of gravity, improving the blood supply to the lungs and brain and give the legs and heart a rest. The heart is exercised by the different postures with many similar benefits of aerobic exercise- with one exception. Through yoga postures, the heart is not stressed as it is in aerobic activities such as running or spinning. In yoga the heart receives the actions of various poses much like the rest of the body, through toning, stimulating and massaging actions. Weight bearing yoga poses can help improve bone density and slow the progression of osteoporosis. Flexibility and strength of the muscles and range of motion in the joints is greatly increased as well as overall stamina and endurance.

Yoga gives you energy. Yoga postures bend the spine in many different ways. Moving the spine this way keeps the spine flexible and healthy and nourishes the entire nervous system. These poses release tension and blocked energy, lengthen and strengthen muscles, and tone, stimulate and massage internal organs. As a result, every cell in the body has improved function giving a person the sense of renewed energy and a reduction in overall stress. A reduction in stress helps to keep the body and the mind in a healthy state. When the body is in a constant state of stress, it takes a toll on overall health. Yoga can help you relax through specific breathing techniques called pranayama. Pranayama invigorates the entire body-mind system. The respiratory and nervous systems are calmed and strengthened. When pranayama is done correctly the body’s vital energy is balanced and replenished and fatigue is lessened. Conscious relaxation techniques systematically guide you into a state of deep relaxation. As the noisy chatter of your mind recedes, your body is able to let go and release muscle tension. As your muscles relax, the breath rate slows and deepens so the respiratory system is allowed to rest. As the breathing rate slows, the heart rate responds and slows down as well. This positively affects the entire circulatory system and rests the heart. When the heart is relaxed this sends the message to the nervous system to initiate a relaxation response. It is this deep relaxation that goes right to the core of decreasing fatigue. After experiencing a deep relaxation yoga class you will feel full of energy as if you have just taken a mini-vacation from your stressful day.

This year, make a new addition to your workout regime and try a yoga class. It will balance your mind and body and give you a feeling of renewed energy. It will help to reduce stress and fatigue and improve overall strength. Not to mention it can be done in a nice warm studio if winter does show its true colors before spring.

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