If you’ve ruled out yoga for physical reasons, it might be time to reconsider.
Yoga is often associated with a Jennifer Aniston type, who can twist her lithe body into a gravity-defying pretzel. So even with its increasing popularity, yoga can be daunting to those who aren’t already bendy and buff. But men and women of all shapes, sizes, and abilities can do yoga and benefit from the practice. Here is some inspiration to help get you on the mat.
Unexpected Body Benefits
You probably already know that yoga can reduce stress and is good for flexibility, balance, and functional strength. But it has some other surprising perks as well. Researchers at Simmons College in Boston found that hatha and relaxation yoga can help with controlling weight, lowering blood pressure, and improving mood. Yoga can also ease hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in healthy women as well as in breast cancer survivors. There are also yoga programs that are tailored to help ease the symptoms of arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s. Some VA hospitals even offer yoga to help patients recovering from strokes, brain injuries, and other illnesses.
Megan Dunne, a yoga instructor who works with individuals recovering from an injury or illness, says, “In a gym, you’re really pushing yourself to go further when you’re working out. In yoga, it’s the opposite. The poses encourage all the range of motion that the body is designed to do. So when you’re doing them mindfully and slowly, your body can learn through all the movements.”
Turning to Yoga During Chemo
After she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2008, Christine Blumer, President of Winediva Enterprises in Chicago, did yoga while undergoing chemotherapy. “Even though I couldn’t do many of the poses very well, it got me out of my head and helped deal with the depressive thoughts associated with my illness,” Blumer says. Blumer wasn’t new to yoga. “I’m a fat girl who tried yoga because I really hate ‘the gym’ experience,” she says, adding that she felt “taller and more fit” when she first started taking classes. “I just like the fact that yoga isn’t a scene and the goal is to be self-focused,” Blumer says. “I feel better knowing my fellow yoga-lovers probably aren’t concerned about how ridiculous I look trying to pretzel my plus-sized body into fun and strengthening shapes.”
You probably already know that yoga can reduce stress and is good for flexibility, balance, and functional strength. But it has some other surprising perks as well. Researchers at Simmons College in Boston found that “hatha” and relaxation yoga can help with controlling weight, lowering blood pressure, and improving mood.
Yoga for Overweight People
Blumer is not the only person with extra pounds to find a comfortable challenge in yoga. When Megan Garcia signed up for yoga in 1991, she felt intimidated because she was the only overweight person in the class. She stuck with it, though, and noticed she started not only gaining strength, but feeling and sleeping better too. Now she is a plus-sized model and Kripalu-certified yoga instructor who teaches in New York and specialises in teaching yoga to people of all shapes and sizes. Garcia found yoga to be transformative in unexpected ways. “Before I started doing yoga, I really lived life from the neck up,” she says. “After yoga, I began to really feel at home in my skin. If I didn’t have yoga, I can’t imagine feeling so good in my body. Yoga has made it comfortable for me to sit on the floor, to twist, to bend. It grounds me in my body.”
RaeAnn Banker, now the owner of ‘River Yoga’, started taking yoga classes on her 42nd birthday as a present to herself. “I was overweight, and since my mother was morbidly obese, I knew I better do something or I was going to end up just like her,” Banker says. “It took several months of driving by the yoga center before I got up the courage to go in. But once I started, I loved the classes. I was the weakest student in the class, but I kept going. I ended up losing 35 pounds over the next two years and becoming a yoga teacher. Yoga literally changed my life.”
Yoga With Paralysis
Matthew Sanford, who has been paralysed from the chest down since a car accident at age 13, says yoga has helped him “live more vibrantly.” “I was hooked right away,” Sanford, who is now a yoga instructor and the author of ‘Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence’, says. Sanford recalls his first yoga class: “I got out of my wheelchair and took my legs wide into a V. It was really, really emotional. Tears were coming down my face. I didn’t understand how I could feel so much.” Sanford knows some people may question why he tried it. “The answer is it’s your birthright. And that’s true, whether you’re disabled or not,” he says. “Yoga doesn’t discriminate,” he says. “Yoga will make you feel good. Yoga, at its root, is about bringing more awareness to action and to movement. The more you get in your body, the more connected you are to the world.”
Tips for Trying Yoga
Check with your doctor before starting yoga or any new exercise program. And keep these pointers in mind:
- Choose a style of yoga that suits you. Not all yoga classes are alike. Some are more vigorous than others; others may emphasise meditation. For an overview of different yoga styles, see “Which Style of Yoga Is Best for You?”
- Find a teacher you like. Classes that are billed as “intro” or “beginner” can attract a wide range of skill levels. You can sign up for a private one-on-one session customised to your needs.
- Go at your own pace. You can modify yoga poses using blocks, straps, and other tools so that you don’t overstretch. Ask your instructor for help and for modifications that suit your needs.
- Listen to your body. If you’re forcing yourself into a position that’s painful, that’s a signal to stop.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s not about being as flexible as everyone else or as the people you see in yoga magazines who have been practicing for years. And always remember, there’s room for you, too.
– Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Source : WMD