Yoga is a rich ancient practice that originated over 5,000 years ago in Eastern culture but has become well known throughout Western society in the last several decades. Yoga is a combination of deep stretching, strength building poses, breathing practices and meditation. 

Yoga is for everybody and every BODY. Despite what you may see in photos or on social media, one does not have to be fit, young, healthy or look great in yoga pants to start a yoga journey. A consistent yoga practice offers amazing health benefits to anyone willing to keep an open mind and give it a try. 

Yoga can help boost energy and vitality, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, balance the central nervous system, tone muscle, improve cardio and circulatory health, and protect from injury. By lubricating the joints, yoga also can greatly improve flexibility and mobility. 

Here are three more of the many benefits that can be reaped from a regular yoga practice:

 

Benefit No. 1: Stress Relief

Yoga helps create mental clarity and calmness, increase body awareness and relieve chronic stress patterns, all while relaxing the mind, centering attention and sharpening concentration.

According to Dr. Natalie Nevins, a board-certified osteopathic family physician, “Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, alcohol or drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate. Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.” 

Stop where you are right now. Close your eyes and take a DEEP intentional breath. Can you feel your stress begin to melt away? Lower your shoulders down away from your ears and relax the lower half of your body. Breathe in with a brand-new awareness. Feel your mind begin to slow down. Repeat.

 

Benefit No. 2: Improved Weight Loss 

According to a 2015 study in the Harvard Medical School Journal, researchers found that people who practiced yoga for at least 30 minutes once a week for at least four years, gained less weight during middle adulthood. People who were overweight actually lost weight. Overall, those who practiced yoga had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) compared with those who did not practice yoga. Researchers attributed these differences to mindfulness.

Mindfulness goes hand in hand with yoga practice. Research has shown people who practice yoga tend to be mindful eaters who are more in tune with their bodies and more sensitive to hunger cues. As you begin your yoga practice, you may suddenly notice you are paying closer attention to the foods you put into your body and the way you care for yourself in general.

 

Benefit No. 3: Lower Blood Sugar  

Yoga has been found to lower blood sugar by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss, and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin. Everyone can benefit from healthy blood sugar levels.  For diabetics, lower blood sugar levels decrease the risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness.

Have any of these benefits spoken to you? If your intention is to build strength, increase flexibility, relieve stress, relax or even to find a new hobby, consider trying a yoga class. By calming the mind, creating space for yourself, returning to your breath and truly inhabiting your own body, you may just find peace within your soul. Yoga inspires overall wellness and leads to a healthier lifestyle. After a 15-year journey with my own yoga practice, I have found this to be true time and time again. 

 

Courtney Nelson is owner of Serenity Den, a Lake Oconee yoga studio that offers a wide variety of classes, private sessions, and workshops to make yoga accessible to everyone. The studio strives to create a peaceful and inviting atmosphere, where beginners and seasoned yogis can practice alongside one another. Visit www.serenitydenyoga.com to see the studio’s full schedule and class descriptions. The studio can be reached at 706.473.7047 or via email at serenitydenyoga@gmail.com

 

Serenity Den is hosting a Yoga for Arthritis workshop on Saturday, Oct. 12 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The workshop will be led by Renee Brown, E-RYT 500. Renee will share her journey of embracing yoga to battle rheumatoid arthritis and how it led her to a certification in Therapeutic Yoga. You will learn yoga postures to reduce the effects of arthritis, breathing practices to aid in symptom relief and help manage pain, meditation practices to ease discomfort and other self-care and diet practices to help reduce inflammation. The cost is $50 per person. To sign up, email Courtney Nelson at serenitydenyoga@gmail.com.

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