Your neighbor does it. Your sister-in-law does it. Even your boss has jumped on board. If it seems like everyone you know is practicing yoga, you’re probably right. This 5,000-year-old Indian art form has swept the nation as a favorite fitness activity, with an estimated 30 million Americans enjoying the benefits of yoga today.
Consisting of a series of postures, movements and breathing techniques, yoga is said to bring together the body and mind, allowing for the development of both physical strength and mental focus. Unlike other forms of exercise, like aerobics or weight training, yoga increases muscle tone without posing risk of injury through fast or forceful movements. Core and limb strength are developed, and flexibility, balance and agility are increased.
Psychologically, yoga encourages concentration and clarity of the mind. Its breathing techniques help participants develop discipline and intense focus, which promotes “being fully present in the moment.” Free from the constant chatter and distractions of the mind, the whole self becomes completely engaged in the task at hand. For many, this focus promotes relaxation and better mood.
Yoga studios are cropping up across the U.S., but classes are offered at a variety of locations. Check with the local park district, community college or library for classes. Or, try yoga in the comfort of your own home.