This Is The Most Underrated Exercise

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If there’s one thing we all need to do right now – other than being vigilant with hygiene – it’s find some calm, and work on our minds and bodies. Fortunately, there’s something that can do all of that and more: Yoga. If you think you know what yoga is or you’ve heard the benefits but decided it’s not for you, then we think that if you keep reading, you might just be converted, because honestly, yoga is probably the most underrated exercise ever.

So, now is as good a time as any to give yoga a go, and when you see the insane myriad of health benefits – and let’s not forget how easy this is to do at home – then you’ll soon be excited to either practice yoga more often, or get started. It’s great for feeling better and staying fit. Honestly, we have never come out of a yoga session feeling bad, and trust us when we say that there’s a yoga session for everyone.

We spoke to Jodi Rose Gonzales, a yoga instructor, art therapist, author, and Founder of Jodi Rose Studio, to find out all the yoga benefits. From improving mental health and relieving stress to body toning and improving your immune system; we’re uncovering the power of yoga, different yoga types, and how you can get started. Here’s why yoga might just be the best thing you can do for your body this year.

What is Yoga?

 

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“Yoga is a comprehensive wellness system. Well beyond the poses (asana) that are the focus of most classes, yoga has eight total disciplines (called limbs) that can be used to improve every aspect of life. These offer guidance for self-care, relationships, physical conditioning, concentration, emotional intelligence, and more. Yoga teaches you how to quiet your mind, to accept yourself and others with compassion, and to grow into the person you know you are meant to be,” Jodi tells us.

“Yoga is awesome because it combines physical and mental health, self-care, resiliency, and self-discovery into one practice.” Jodi also points out that there’s an entry point for everyone, no matter how fit you are.

Yoga instructor and Founder of Bala Bangles, Natalie Holloway, agrees and says “Yoga is a practice that should be whatever you want it to be. You can make it easy and peaceful or you can make it difficult, and either practice is perfect.”

What benefits does yoga have for your body?

 

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Natalie tells us that “Your body will become stronger, more balanced, and more flexible. Yoga for me personally is a form of meditation.” And aside from toning your body (yoga is a lot harder than it looks) and calming your mind, Jodi tells us that yoga offers benefits to every system of the body:

  • It will relax and strengthen your muscles, and tone your cardiovascular system.
  • It can strengthen your immune system, increase your bone density, and improve your sleep.
  • It improves circulation and helps to metabolize the buildup of stress hormones.
  • It will regulate your nervous system, so you feel calmer and more at ease.
  • It can also help eliminate toxins, make your skin glow, and help you look and feel healthier overall.

Jodi goes on to say that “There is a long list of scientific reasons why yoga makes you feel great, but seriously: when you sleep better, and your skin looks better, and you feel more comfortable in your skin – AND you feel more relaxed, focused, confident and connected to yourself – what’s better than that? A regular yoga practice can absolutely deliver these results.”

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How Yoga Helps with Mental Health and Stress-Relief

“Yoga poses (asana) and controlled breathing (pranayama) can lower your heart and breath rates, and reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol,” Jodi tells us. She also highlights that this method of breathing will stimulate brain waves associated with relaxation, which work as “powerful antidotes for chronic stress and anxiety.”

Another very important discipline that you might not be aware of, but equally important, according to Jodi, is that “Yoga teaches the skill of self-observation. In class, this is your ability to step back and observe your various mental reactions to the poses. Are you easily frustrated? Do you like to show off? Do you push through when you should rest, or prefer to give up?”

Jodi points out that “Through yoga, you begin to realize that your reactions to challenges within the poses (on the mat) are very similar to your reactions to situations in life (off of the mat). You learn that you are not your thoughts. You gain control over your knee-jerk mental responses, and start to cultivate a lifestyle that is more intentional, self-accepting and compassionate.” Jodi says that this is where you start to “experience the full depth and breadth of teachings and mental health benefits that yoga has to offer.”

Yoga Benefits for Health:

 

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As well as the aforementioned benefits, Jodi tells us that “Yoga is an excellent resource for people with chronic illness, chronic stress, or in recovery from eating disorder, substance abuse, and/or trauma. It improves body awareness, emotional intelligence, and insight. It offers a powerful non-pharmaceutical approach to treating anxiety.”

As well as the benefits for mental health, Jodi also says that yoga “can also address specific physical issues such as chronic pain, osteoporosis, and limited mobility resulting from surgery, injury, or a sedentary lifestyle. It will also strengthen the immune system and has shown benefits for people with cancer and HIV/AIDS.”

Extra Perks of Yoga

 

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According to Jodi, yoga is a great tool for self-love and self-acceptance, “A regular practice will help you see your strengths more clearly, and it will help you address your fears and frustrations. Yoga can give you the confidence to show up in the world in a way that is more aligned with your true nature. Also, your yoga practice will teach you how to take on life’s challenges with patience, calmness, curiosity, and courage.”

Types of Yoga

There are tons of types of yoga and some may seem a little intimidating, so it’s good to have a basic understanding of each before you show up to a class. If your first practice isn’t catered for beginners, it could be overwhelming. Jodi highlights the most common types and ‘brands’ of yoga and who she recommends them for:

Hatha yoga is a great starting point for everyone. Try a gentle or beginning-level class. Hatha teachers and studio, tend to offer yoga teachings (beyond the poses) into their classes.

Vinyasa yoga combines breathing and yoga poses through a series of flowing movements. This practice is very effective for people who experience chronic stress and anxiety, but it is not recommended for absolute beginners. People who are new to yoga should look for ‘slow flow’ or other more basic classes to learn proper alignment.

Restorative and yin yoga offer deep relaxation. Poses are held for several minutes, and the body is supported by blankets, bolsters, and other props. This is a rejuvenating practice for people with chronic fatigue, high stress, fast pace, or a lot of physical movement during the day.

Yoga Nidra is known as ‘yogic sleep’ and offers deep relaxation. It is highly effective for people with anxiety or who are in recovery from trauma. This form of yoga involves guided imagery and listening to a series of body-scan prompts from the instructor.

Power yoga is a more athletic form of yoga that is typically focused on strength-building and deepening of the poses. If you consider yourself to be athletic but are new to yoga, look for power yoga classes that offer clear instruction and a focus on alignment.

Hot yoga is often presented as hot power yoga or hot vinyasa yoga. The heat helps to increase flexibility and increases detoxification through sweating. This form of yoga can cause injury as people tend to overextend their joints and muscles. Beginners should take a few regular classes first, to become familiar with the poses while learning their physical limitations.

If you want to make any of the above workouts more intense, check out Bala Bangles, which are small – and very cute – weighted bands that you can wear around your wrists or ankles to intensify your yoga session.

Tips for Getting Started with Yoga

 

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Determine your goals for yoga: Jodi suggests understanding what your main focus will be:Are you looking to reduce stress? Strengthen your body? Do you want to experience self-discovery or spiritual growth? Are you an athlete, looking to improve your flexibility or to recover from an injury?”

…Then, shop your yoga studios: “Call around and ask questions. Explain your goals, concerns, and describe if you have any injuries. The right studio will listen to your needs and guide you to the right class or teacher.  Follow your instincts: does the studio feel welcoming? Are they patient with your questions?” Jodi says.

Right now, going to a studio might not be the best option for you, but there are plenty of amazing online classes that you can follow. Check out Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, which has hundreds of videos and 30-day classes that are easy to follow, and a great place to start for beginners.

Next, give yourself permission to try a gentle or beginner class. Jodi says “You’ll be astounded by how much better you will feel, physically and emotionally, even after a class that seems way too easy. You’ll feel inspired to try more classes!” It’s also important to be open, should your first class not go as you imagined. Jodi points out that, “Every studio, and teacher, has a unique vibe. If you don’t like your first class [or video], try another teacher. If a studio feels competitive, move on. Find an environment that feels supportive and accommodating. Your instructor should be accessible: you can introduce yourself, and ask questions before and after class. The right teacher will love that!”

It is completely normal to feel weird for the first few classes: “You may be humbled by your seeming lack of flexibility or coordination. Your inner critic may be loud, you might feel self-conscious, and you will probably compare yourself to others. Just remember, every experienced person in the room has been through this as well. Notice your discomfort, then try to put it aside. Set an intention for a positive outcome for class. Once you get past the initial discomfort, it will become easier to focus on your practice,” Jodi explains.

You are doing yoga for your health, so prioritize injury prevention: The truth is, some yoga instructors are better at giving clear direction than others. So if you’re a beginner, Jodi recommends to “Look for studios and teachers that give clear, concise alignment cues. If, after the first few classes, you still find yourself looking around or trying to figure out what the teacher wants you to do, consider trying another class.”

Finally, and we can totally agree with this, Jodi says “It may sound sensational, but yoga can transform your life. This has been my experience and the experience of many of my students and colleagues. Give yourself the permission to try; the patience to experiment and find the right class, teacher, and/or studio; and the commitment to practicing with relative consistency. You will be amazed by the results!”

Yoga Sites and Yoga Apps We Love:

 

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DownDog App: This app is great for beginners and disciplined yogis, as the app allows you to tailor classes to you level, preference, speed, and time constraints. The visuals make following this really easy, while the detailed ways of breaking down your yoga practice (you can set the pace, voice, music, and extended explanation options) make this foolproof for anyone. This app is also free to try until the end of March, due to the recent outbreak.

Yoga with Adriene: Whether you want to pick and choose random videos from Adriene’s YouTube page or start with a 30-day yoga journey (we highly recommend for beginners), Adriene’s workouts are all-encompassing and also touch on self-discovery and discipline in easy-to-follow classes.

EkhartYoga: If you want a taste of all the different kinds of yoga you can do, check out this website or head over to the EkhartYoga YouTube page that has thousands of videos by different instructors that teach all kinds of yoga with different methods. It’s a great place to discover how diverse yoga is, and to try new things. If you’re already an experienced yogi, they also have videos to help you improve specific poses you might be trying to work on.

If you want to find out more about yoga, check out Jodi’s most recent book, Drawn to Yoga: How to Combine Creativity and Yoga for a Deeper Connection With Your True Self, which became an Amazon #1 New Release and #2 Best Seller.

Are you guys a fan of yoga or will you give it a go? Let us know in the comments below.