September is National Yoga Month! Channel your inner “Go Long” spirit and, with your doctor’s ok, try something new that benefits both the mind and body.
Yoga provides mental and physical benefits for those of all ages and can easily be adapted for different levels. Yoga instructor Katie Olean has been practicing yoga for 10 years and recently completed a teacher training course in India – the birthplace of yoga. Here, she explains the benefits of yoga and answers some common questions.
“People come to yoga for many different reasons. Most often, it’s due to some sort of injury or limitation that they’re trying to recover from,” Katie explains. “But yoga does much more than you’d think. It’s a practice that involves both the body and the mind. On the physical level, yoga practice improves the body’s alignment. Poses are designed to stretch the body in equal and opposite ways. When the body is in proper alignment, it improves the functioning of everything else. … In addition, yoga poses strengthen muscles and improve balance, which decreases risk of injuries. On the mental level, yoga helps improve focus by bringing attention inward to the body and to the breath. When the mind is focused, external stress is reduced.”
“A lot of people think they can’t do yoga because they’re not flexible enough,” Katie says. “It is these people who probably need yoga most. Since yoga is a personal practice, there is no ‘perfect pose’ you’re trying to achieve. The goal is always to work within your own body, starting from wherever you’re at.
What About Physical Limitations?
“The best thing about yoga is that it is a personal practice,” Katie explains. “As you do yoga, you should always be listening to your own body and how each of the poses makes you feel. If something feels uncomfortable or not right, then you should always back out or go into an easier pose. There is room for growth in all of the poses, with modifications for beginners, intermediates and advanced. If you have a specific limitation, your teacher should be able to work with you on modifications and give you advice on which poses can help you work through them.
Ready to Try Yoga?
“Leave all your expectations at the door,” Katie advises. “When you go to yoga, honor where you’re at and don’t try to push yourself or force your body into poses that don’t feel right. Slowly and over time, your body will open up, and you’ll appreciate the progress without injury. Also, don’t give up. It may feel strange at first, but as you become more familiar with the poses, you’ll really start to feel the benefits.”