When I mention yoga to people, they tend to say, "that's nice." And they sort of click off at that point. There are two main opinions I get from people about yoga: "Eastern, mystical philosophy," and "Not really a workout."
The truth is that yoga, while it does have history dating back to 3,000 BC (Stone Age) shamanism, and there is a lot of Hindu philosophy associated with it, is as personal a philosophy as can be. The benefits of yoga to the mind and body surpass any cultural and religious boundaries that I can think of.
I became interested in yoga when I entered menopause and began to suffer depression. My general practitioner mentioned it to me as a way to learn how calm the mind and settle the body. He himself said he was surprised to find himself recommending it to me and other patients. Later he began practicing it himself when his family acquired a Wii Fit! You see, yoga is largely about breathing. And medical practitioners now know that breathing can do a lot to calm the central nervous system and reduce stress.
I began by learning a couple of very basic, short routines from DVDs. I've written about them here.
But now I've stepped it up a notch and am taking a yoga class at our local gym. And I have to say I've found that class to be as challenging, if not more so, than some of the jazzercise sculpting classes I've taken. My Saturday morning routine now includes a 60-minute jazzercise class and then a 75-minute yoga class. Yes, there is some "laying around and breathing." But there are also some very challenging poses that take you to the end of your strength and stretching ability. Last week we did some poses with planks and then lowering ever so slowly to the floor...like a very long fully-stretched-out push-up. And then we had to get ourselves back up. After doing that for a dozen times, our shoulders and upper backs were definitely fatigued.
Today we practiced a couple of balance poses where we balanced our legs on our arms and held ourselves up off the ground with our hands. Called the Crane Pose, this pose makes you feel almost as if you are pitching forward on your face before you hit the right balance. We also did a pose similar to this Warrior III pose, except we started from a forward bend and came up, instead of starting standing and bending down.
So, after 2.5 hours of some pretty hard working out this morning, I did some puttering around and then took a nice nap. I'll have to do some serious stretching tonight and tomorrow to keep the body from seizing up like an engine out of oil!
Oh, and I didn't mention the Jazz-to-the Max class I took yesterday at 5:15! 45 minutes of cardio and strength training, but mixed up...instead of 30 minutes of cardio and then cooling down to do 30 minutes of strength, we did cardio, lifting, cardio, lifting. Totally kicked our butts. I may not be able to lift my arms for a week! And then it will be time to do all of this over again...