Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(72) Take Up Yoga

Like meditation, yoga is an extremely popular and effective method for becoming a more relaxed, easygoing person. For centuries, yoga has been used to clear and free the mind, giving people feelings of ease and equanimity. It's easy to do and takes only a few minutes a day. What's more, people of virtually any age and fitness level can participate. I once took a class at the health club that included both a ten-year-old boy and an eighty-seven-year-old man. Yoga is noncompetitive in nature. You and progress at your own speed and comfort level.

Although yoga is physical in nature, its benefits are both physical and emotional. On the physical side, yoga strengthens the muscles and the spine, creating flexibility and ease of motion. On the emotional side, yoga is a tremendous stress reducer. It balances the body-mind-spirit connection, giving you a feeling of ease and peace.

Yoga is practiced by engaging in a series of stretches, both gentle and challenging. The stretches are designed to open the body and lengthen the spine. The stretches focus on very specific, usually tight and constricted places - the neck, back, hips, legs, and spine. While you are stretching, you are also concentrating, focusing your attention on what you are doing.

The effects of yoga are truly amazing. After only a few minutes, you feel more alive and open, peaceful and relaxed. Your mind is clear. The rest of your day is easier and more focused. I used to believe that I was too busy to practice yoga. I felt I didn't have the time. I'm now certain that the opposite is true - I don't have time not to practice yoga. It's too important not to do. It keeps me feeling young and energized. It's also a wonderful and peaceful way to spend time with family and/or friends. Rather than watching television together, my two daughters and I often flip on a yoga video and spend a few minutes stretching together.

Like meditation, it's easy to find a local class at the community center, the YMCA, or the health club. If you prefer to learn from a book, my favorite is Richard Hittleman's Yoga Twenty-Eight-Day Exercise Plan. There are also many videos you can learn from as well as a magazine dedicated solely to yoga called the Yoga Journal.

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