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Adding Yoga to Your Fitness Regime

Adding yoga to your exercise program can make a huge difference. You will gain strength, energy, balance and flexibility. Nothing reforms, reshapes and relaxes your body like yoga.

In addition, yoga can benefit you in many different ways: to escape into a few minutes of quiet to center yourself, to take your mind off the nagging details of everyday life, to learn to breathe fully, to consciously control your stress levels, to relieve lower back pain, migraine headaches and injuries. Yoga balances your body, breath, emotions and intellect.

Your muscles are stretched long in an anatomically correct position, and your stabilizing muscles are trained to support this posture all the time, not just when you're working out. If you're unknowingly making any mistakes in strength training, yoga will correct that in a few sessions.

Yoga can also teach you how to control unhealthy habits like overeating. Eating too much is usually caused by low self-esteem an escape from self-judgment and responsibility. While practicing yoga consistently you will see yourself differently. You'll start to feel a peace about yourself that will increase your confidence and help you avoid compulsive overeating.

When I first started yoga, I had no idea what it would do for me. I had a knee injury from running, and my physical therapist prescribed a few yoga classes. I had always thought yoga was a New Age religious practice, not an activity that I would benefit from physically. But despite yoga's spiritual origins, people of all religions (even people of no religion) can reap yoga's physical benefits. 

Another reason I was apprehensive was that I really love active sports, so the thought of going to a floor exercise class sounded out of character for me. But I knew I needed some kind of stretching class for my knee, just to make myself do it. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have done it on my own. So I went.

Surprisingly, the yoga classes gave me more than any regular stretching could have given me. After a few sessions, my body was completely realigned. I never knew the moderate occasional pains in my back weren't just a part of having a back. I also realized that the last bit of flab I still had around my waist was there not because I was lazy and needed to run more I just needed to sit up and lengthen my spine and supportive back muscles.

Muscles I forgot about years ago were stretched and strengthened, and all my pent-up tension drained out. My body looked longer, leaner, and best of all tightness was gone from my neck (where I store my stress) and I felt new assurance and calmness.

You can find a beginner's yoga class in any city -- just look in the yellow pages. They can cost from $5 to $15 per class. You can also buy videos, if time is an obstacle, at oline video stores. Be sure and start with a tape for beginners, and then work your way up to the more advanced levels.

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