Several years ago I was regulalry attending yoga classes at multiple studios across Nashville to help alleviate pain and tension headaches from a herniated disc in my neck. I originally discovered yoga in Chicago after months of physical therapy and muscle relaxers failed to ease the disc symptoms. Yoga brought the relief I was looking for and so much more.
Lately, I’ve felt a pull to begin practicing again. I revisited an article I wrote for Yoga Journal Magazine on where to practice in Music City and I’ve put together a list of The Top 8 Reasons To Practice Yoga (mainly for my own benefit to encourage me to get in gear and get back to classes, but you might enjoy it as well.)
- Increased Flexibility – Yoga stretches not only he muscles, but also the joints. As a mom who spends a lot of time in the car and at the computer my hips are always tight, which can cause lower back pain. I workout fairly regularly, but I rarely spend much time stretching so my muscles are always tight. By increasing flexibility you increases your overall physical fitness, reduce soreness and aches and increase blood flow. It also keeps the muscles youthful and the joints functioning properly.
- Enhanced Muscle Tone and Strength – Yoga requires you to lift and hold your own body weight and can be considered a strength training workout that helps prevent bone loss and improves metabolism. Because yoga relies on eccentric muscle contractions, which means the muscle is being stretched as it’s contracting, it builds long, sleek muscles instead of bulk.It also works muscles all over the body, small and large, in one workout rather than taking several days of weight training to accomplish the same goal. (Yogis have the best tank top arms…I’m just sayin.)
- Improved Posture – Yoga increases body awareness, which helps to improve your posture by simply making you more aware. The poses also reverse the effects of hours spent hunched over a computer or in the car by stretching and lengthening the muscles and increasing flexibility in the joints. Regular yoga practice and improved posture can make you look taller, thinner and more confident. (At barely 5’2″ I’m all for anything that makes me look taller.)
- Greater Lung Capacity – Proper breathing is incorporated into most yoga classes. The focus on breath gives students the opportunity to breath more deeply than we do in our day to day routines, which helps to increase lung capacity by actually expanding the walls of the lungs. This is especially beneficial for athletes, runners and asthma patients. (As well as moms with rowdy toddlers who need to speak loud and repeat themselves often to get their attention…not me..but some people.)
- Stress Reduction – The mental focus required to maintain and move through the yoga poses helps to focus the mind away from everyday stresses. The focus on breath work and breathing into the movements has a calming, cleansing effect that always left me feeling energized yet peaceful. (Maybe I should try a few yoga poses after my 2 year old sits on the potty for 30 minutes, doesn’t go, then stands up and pees on the floor. Wonder if it works in the moment?)
- Overall Heart Health – Because yoga helps to reduce stress and improve blood flow it’s also proven to be effective at lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Weight loss is another benefit of a regular yoga practice, which can contribute to overall heart health.
- Symptom Relief – Regular yoga practice can relieve symptoms of asthma and arthritis as well as back and neck pain. I can personally attest to this. By improving my posture and increasing blood flow in my neck I was able to reduce the pressure on my nerve and relieve the pain and tension headaches caused by my herniated disc.
- Functional Fitness- Yoga can condition your body to perform better at things you do everyday like sit, stand, walk, twist, carry groceries, wrestle children into their car seats…etc. Yoga moves your body in the way it was designed to move which helps prevent injury and ensures that it continues to function properly and efficiently at day to day activities.
Now that I’ve convinced you to go out and give yoga a try here are a few recommendations for all of my friends here in Nashville.
- Start at the Lululemon website. They offer free classes at their Green Hills store from 10-11 a.m. every Saturday. It’s a great opportunity to try different styles and studios from all over Middle TN for FREE. They also offer a pretty comprehensive list of local studios and upcoming events.
- Visit my Yoga Journal article for a list and description of studios I’ve visited personally.
- Check out yoga in the park at Centennial park every Wednesday at 6 p.m. It’s a free class (donations accepted) that teaches basic yoga poses and proper form. Great for all levels, but especially effective for beginners.
- If you’re not ready to try yoga in public check out one of the Gaiam yoga videos available on their website or on amazon. Rodney Yee and Seane Corn are two of my favorites. There’s also a family yoga DVD w/ Rodney Yee that’s a lot of fun if you want to get the kids involved.
Do you practice yoga? If so, where’s your favorite place to practice? What’s your favorite pose?