If you are looking for something to relax you, make you feel whole, balanced, flexible and pain free, you should try yoga.  If you've done traditional exercise and got burned out or frustrated with your results, yoga may be the way to go.  Middle aged and starting to "feel your age"?  Try adding a gentle yoga stretch to your mornings and evenings and see what happens.  

Its effects may be gradual, but yoga, when practiced regularly, will rock your mind, body and spirit.

Why Yoga?

The longer you go without stretching, repeating the same basic muscle movements every day, the more likely you will lose your range of motion and be unable to move freely.  Yoga can help balance your body and keep it free of aches of pains.  Even women in nursing homes who regularly participate in yoga classes have fewer complaints of aches & pains than women who are sedentary.  It has also been proven to reduce medication requirments in those with asthma and has long been know to be more effective than splinting patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.  If you have arthritis in your hands, you can reduce tenderness, pain during activity, and improve range of motion.

One of the major benefits of yoga is its effect on anxiety.  Because yoga practice involves breathing and meditation, yoga practitioners are more likely to be calmer and less likely to react negatively to outside circumstances.

Getting Started in Yoga

First you need to do a little research and decide which type of yoga will best suit your personality, lifestyle and current level of fitness.  I have taken yoga classes at yoga studios and at the gym, and I also have several yoga tapes for home practice.  I enjoy both and choose whatever works best for my schedule and mood.  I use my tapes every morning before breakfast.   AllegroMedical.com's most popular yoga DVD is Everyday Yoga - Hips and Knees DVD.   It includes 5 different daily yoga practices that can be performed Monday through Friday, to keep it fresh.

Note to those who think they can't do it:  Even after practicing yoga for years I am by no means a pro at this, and if I can do it, anyone can.  It's how it makes me feel that keeps me going.  I'll never be able to bend like a pretzel, but hey, I do what I can and that's enough.  Remember, it's called yoga 'practice'.

To find a class in your area, check out the Yoga Journal Directory or your local paper.  If you're just starting out, a hatha or vinyasa class would probably be best.   You can try other ones down the line.  I have friends that swear by the "hot yoga" classes. 

Yoga Equipment, Videos and Clothing

Yoga Mats - Also called sticky mats.  You can sometimes rent or use a mat at a yoga studio or gym, but really you will want your own mat for hygiene reasons.


Yoga Starter Kit - This has everything a beginning yoga student needs, including yoga blocks, a tote bag to take to class, a sticky mat, straps and a postures poster for reference.  You can also buy these essential yoga props, yoga foam blocks, yoga straps, a yoga mat and a small pillow or blanket separately.


Yoga Balls - Besides the essentials, there are some fun exercise balls and a FitBall Yoga DVD you might want to try at home. 

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Pants - A pair of shorts or sweatpants will do, but you might look for special yoga pants that are fitted but give full range of motion.  Some are fitted at the top but slit at the bottom so you can check your alignment.

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The effects on your body from yoga are quite different that those you'll find from traditional exercise.  Yoga is slow, dynamic, static.  Effort is minimized and awareness is internal.  The parasympathetic nervous system and the sucortical regions of the brain dominates.  Traditional  exercise is the opposite.  It involves maximum effort, muscle tension, cortical brain domination, forceful movements and external awareness.  Yoga carries a low risk of injuring muscles and ligaments.  Less so with exercise.

If you can, do both.  If you want to get started on something that will unite your mind, body and spirit.  Something that helps you find harmony, then I suggest yoga.

Namaste (I bow to you).