Feeling sluggish after the excesses of Christmas? Wanting to get in shape, but not drawn to the gym? Then here are seven good reasons why taking up yoga could be your New Year Resolution for 2017:
1. Yoga offers something for everyone, without exception. Regardless of age, body shape or level of fitness, there will be some form of practice that suits you. If a general class seems out of reach for whatever reason, it is always possible to have private instruction from a teacher who can supply personalized practice plans, some of which can be done entirely in a chair, or without getting up from the floor.
2. Yoga is incredibly versatile and can be adapted to suit changing energy levels and mood. A common problem with New Year fitness resolutions is that people often start out too vigorously, set unrealistic goals, and then give up too soon, tired out and disappointed. The beauty of a mindful yoga practice is that it is both dynamic and restful, intense and gentle, lively and settled. Over time, a skillful yogi will be able to work this to their advantage, cooperating with their body's needs and ensuring that energy is boosted rather than drained at all times. A little goes a long way too. 10 minutes of practice a day can have surprisingly positive effect.
3. Yoga is great exercise for the brain. Movement with awareness is a key tool in keeping the mind alert, vital and primed for new learning. Medical scans have shown that there is a significant increase in brain cell activity when we move the body with full attention (as opposed to moving on automatic pilot, which is how most of us approach exercise), and that cellular activity increases even more when we are given something new or challenging to do. So if you want to tone your mind as well as your body, yoga is the way forward.
4. Yoga reconnects us to lost parts of ourselves. People often leave their first yoga class making amazed comments about having used muscles they didn't know they had and remarking on how good this made them feel. Our routine, industrialized culture means that most of us have become pretty limited in our movements, as if our bodies were like great mansions with only half the rooms in use. In a balanced yoga class, there will be exercises not only for the more familiar target areas, such as abs and glutes, but also for hands and feet, for energy centres and meridians, for diaphragm and intercostal muscles … in short, for every aspect of the physiology. Exercising in this way is like clearing out those forgotten rooms, turning on the light and allowing every window of our mansion to shine brightly.
5. Yogic breath exercises improve cardio fitness and strengthen core postural muscles – without you having to move at all! If pounding the treadmill in the gym, or even doing a few fast rounds of sun salutation doesn't appeal, then you can tone your cv and respiratory systems with one or two well chosen (and regularly practiced) pranayamas, particularly pumping breath and techniques that encourage conscious breath retention. Controlling and regulating the breath can be a powerful way to get mind and body on track, making us feel vibrant and alive in the process.
6. Yoga points us towards the more overlooked aspects of life, revealing their gifts and teachings. Concepts such as slowness, quietness, subtlety and present moment awareness are not much valued in Western society, but they each carry tremendous healing potential. The more we integrate them into our daily experience, the healthier and happy we will be.
7. Physical yoga practice can be a springboard towards other life affirming activities such as meditation, community service and study of spiritual texts, all of which cultivate compassion and good feeling, which in turn contribute to making the world a better place.
And if that is not enough encouragement, here is an affirmation to get you going courtesy of the Gaia Oracle:
I am open to new ideas and adventures
Life is full of creative possibility
I embrace each opportunity that comes my way
I love the magic and mystery of lifestyle
Happy New Year!
Penny Jane Fuller 2017