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Heather's Health Habits, LLC

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  • Heather Lee Donahue, CHN

Why You Need To Practice Yoga


I started practicing yoga about 14 years ago. I primarily started because I have degenerative disc disease, which is a fancy way of saying the cushion in between the vertebrae in my spine is getting hard. Yoga is fantastic for back issues because the stretching stimulates the fluid in the vertebrae helping to keep it flexible and strong. Taking yoga classes helps me stay off medication for my back issue but there are so many other benefits that I didn't realize I would get from practicing yoga.

Yoga is a low-impact activity that keeps you active and strong. There are many different types of yoga, such as Hot Yoga or Power Yoga and there is even Chair Yoga. I religiously practice Yoga at least 1 day per week. I also take the time to add a short routine one day during the week using YouTube videos. There are so many great yoga teachers that have free routines available for you. What I really like about YouTube is being able to try different routines and there are short practices that are only 10 minutes long.

When I tell people they should practice yoga, the very first thing they say is that they aren't flexible and can't do it. But yoga is not about being flexible. It is about stretching and building strength within your body's ability. There are some poses you may never be able to do! That is OK!

Modifications are usually given to get as close to the pose as possible. Plus, don't be surprised if one day you achieve the pose! A very wise yoga teacher I have often says "it is yoga practice, not yoga perfect". You may never perfect all of the poses but just coming close is good enough!

Below are 4 reasons you need to practice yoga.

1) YOGA ALLOWS YOU TO LET GO

One of the most beneficial parts of yoga is the ability to focus on what is happening in the class for 1 hour. If you let your mind wander during class, there is no way you can do the poses and keep up. You must focus on what is happening around you. In fact, Everyday Health reports that yoga may improve cognitive function because you have to clear your mind and refresh. From a place of peace and calm, we are able to use our mental facilities more efficiently. (Image: yoga.com)

2) YOGA MAY HELP MANAGE PAIN

While yoga cannot cure pain or physical ailments, it can help manage the pain. Harvard Health Publishing reports a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that among 313 people with chronic low back pain, a weekly yoga class increased mobility more than standard medical care for the condition. Another study published at nearly the same time found that yoga was comparable to standard exercise therapy in relieving chronic low back pain. (Image: Total Beauty.com)

3) YOGA CAN TRANSFORM YOUR BODY

I can tell you that over the years, I've gained strength & flexibility that I haven't had since I was a teenager. I can reach beyond my toes not just touch them. Now, flexibility is different for every person. If you were never flexible, yoga won't help make you flexible but it will help you gain and maintain flexibility which is necessary for healthy aging. Yoga helps you get stronger because the poses are weight bearing poses in which you need to carry your own body weight to get into the pose.

4) YOGA RELAXES YOU

Stressed? Yoga gives you tools that you can use in your everyday life to relieve stress. I didn't realize that the yoga teachings I've had have become so ingrained into my daily life. From breathing with deep belly breathing, which requires you to extend your belly. This is the exact opposite of how we are taught to breath - we are taught to bring in our belly when inhaling.

Relieving stress is beneficial for our mind and body. When we are stressed, our immune and digestive systems suffer. We are more likely to get sick when our immune system is stressed out. The side-effects of a stressed digestive system include bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation. By fighting stress we help our bodies stay healthy and avoid getting sick.

Our digestive system also impacts our mind. The gut and mind are connected through millions of nerves. The happy chemical our bodies create, serotonin, is produced in the gut.(Source: Healthline) If the gut is stressed and not working properly, the chances of you being in a bad mood is very high.

To start incorporating yoga into you life, start slowly. Trying something new takes patience and time to make it part of your routine. It is easy to get frustrated or feel like you aren't doing yoga properly if you try to master it too fast. The whole point of yoga is to slowly learn how to do the poses and keep practicing in order to get better at it. Start with taking one class per week. After three to four weeks, add another. Soon yoga will just be part of what you do.

Do you think you will try a yoga class either in a studio or via YouTube? Let me know in the comments box below.

Would you like to learn more about how to incorporate healthy habits into your daily routine?

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