I was first introduced to yoga when I was going through cancer treatment.
One of the local yoga instructors offered free yoga classes on Monday evenings, so I decided to give it a try. Yoga was a perfect low-impact activity in that I could adapt the moves according to my ability and stamina (which wasn’t much as I was going through chemotherapy.)
That hour was a gift I gave myself – an escape from being a cancer patient. Since that time, I still try to incorporate an occasional yoga class into my physical activity plan.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. There are various styles of yoga typically combining physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
From my experience, the yoga room is a place of calmness and serenity. Before entering the yoga studio, we remove our shoes and socks. (I love this as I’m practically always running around barefoot.) Once in the studio, we roll out our yoga mats and wait quietly for our session to begin.
During the session our yoga instructor guides us through various stretching and poses, all the while reminding us to focus on our breathing. Typically, a yoga class will finish with the corpse (Savasana) pose where you lie flat on your back, with eyes closed, relaxing. (This is my favorite part!)
Again, one of my favorite things about yoga is the ability to adapt the exercise to my skill ability. There were a few times I’d attempt to do a yoga pose and find that I needed to adjust slightly.
My overall impression of yoga – I enjoy it. I like the stretching, poses and meditative centering. My most significant challenge is that I often find it difficult to quiet my thoughts and stay present. When practicing yoga at home, I discovered that I do better with the 20-minute sessions than longer ones.
How It Works
No matter what other activities you participate in, yoga can strengthen your abilities by increasing flexibility, staying power (endurance), and your ability to focus.
Lots of physical activities build your muscles and strength, but many times other parts of your body are left out. Because yoga is a full body workout, it can help to check any imbalance in your muscles.
Also, yoga strengthens, tones and stretches your muscles, helping to increase your flexibility. If your body is flexible, you are less likely to get injured.
There are more than 100 different forms of yoga. Some are fast-paced and intense. Others are gentle and relaxing. Generally, yoga is low impact and safe for healthy people when practiced appropriately under the guidance of a well-trained instructor.
Overall, those who practice yoga have a low rate of side effects, and the risk of serious injury from yoga is quite low.
Women who are pregnant and people with certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, glaucoma, and sciatica (pain, weakness, numbing, or tingling that may extend from the lower back to the calf, foot, or even the toes) should modify or avoid some yoga poses.
Body Areas It Targets
Yoga is considered an all-over body workout. It’s good for your core, arms, legs, glutes and back.
- Flexibility: Yes
- Aerobic: No
- Strength: Yes
- Sport: No
- Low-impact: Yes
- Good for beginners: Yes
- Outdoors: Weather permitting
- At home: Yes
- Equipment required: Yes; you’ll need a mat
The first time you try any new fitness class can be a little intimidating. If you’ve wanted to try yoga but something has been holding you back, I'd encourage you to give it a try.