The Benefits of Yoga: Good for Mind and Body!

You’ve certainly heard time and again that yoga is good for you. All that stretching and breathing calms you down and makes you feel better. But other than “making you feel good,” what are the health benefits associated with practicing yoga?

More often than not, we tend to perceive yoga as a meditation practice that helps us physically – to balance, to stretch, etc. But yoga is also a practice that improves the well-being of our mental state. In fact, “yoga” is derived from the same root as the word “yoke,” referring to the process of yoking the mind and body together.  It is in combining both of these that the most benefit is derived from the practice of yoga. 

Physical Benefits
* Breathing: most of us breathe very differently than we should. As infants, we breathe in by expanding our bellies, and breathe out by retracting our bellies. As we age, we actually reverse this process, and we tend to breathe in a very shallow manner.  In fact, we very rarely truly give any thought at all to how we breathe. Pranayama, a yoga breathing exercise, actually helps to give thought to “how” we breathe and teaches us how to do it properly.

* Muscle tone and strength: many yoga poses require you to support yourself and balance on your limbs. This in turn increases your strength. Thus, more strength equals stronger, leaner muscles.

* Pain prevention: whether or not you have pain to begin with, yoga can help treat both current chronic pain and prevent future pain that can occur as we age. Back pain, for instance, is a very common as most of our everyday lives are spent sitting in a car or at a […]

By |November 5th, 2009|Exercise, Fitness, Tips, Yoga|0 Comments

Setting New Year’s Resolutions That Work

It’s January 1st.  Karen wakes up past noon, feeling groggy and bloated from too much drinking and eating at last night’s party.  As she slowly gets up, she stares at her pudge, feeling that it has ballooned exponentially over the holidays.  Disgusted with herself, she vows that THIS will be the year that she finally loses weight, gets back into her skinny jeans (which have long since gone out of fashion) and becomes a fitness buff.

Full of resolve, she vows to eat nothing but celery sticks and carrots when she gets the munchies, to prepare the elaborate meals from that diet book she bought for New Year’s Resolution 2001, and to get to the gym 5 days a week.

That very night, she slips up and finishes the box of Christmas cookies from her mother.  A week later, she finally gets up the courage to go to the gym, which is crowded with other Resolvers.  After waiting 15 minutes for a machine, she feels exhausted after her 10 minute workout (with the machine set to Level 1!).  Defeated, discouraged, and without energy, she goes home to a bucket of ice cream; things were fine just the way they were.

Sound familiar?

What went wrong?

* Her motivation to lose weight was motivated by disgust and fear, not a desire to take care of herself.  This always leads to guilty failure, a sense of disappointing yourself or someone else.

* She didn’t have a specific plan; rather, she went about willy-nilly doing things she thought you’re supposed to do when you’re on a “diet” (my most loathed four-letter word).

* Whatever meagre goals she did have were completely unrealistic; one cannot subsist on carrots and celery, nor can one realistically expect […]

By |January 8th, 2009|Dieting, Emotional Eating, Exercise, Fitness, Tips|0 Comments

The next time you feel like skipping a workout, read this…

On my way to the gym today (and for most of the day beforehand), I tried very hard to convince myself that I didn’t really need to go. Because of course, I can always go tomorrow. Because I have approximately 1 million items on my to-do list that are awaiting check marks. Because I’m a little tired. Because Tuesdays are always a long day. Because Oprah’s on. Because I’m hungry. I think you get the picture.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate exercising. I can’t say that it’s the highlight of my day, but nor do I avoid it like the plague. Once I’m there, I’m fine, and I kind of like it too. It’s more that I would rather be doing something else.

I eventually forced myself to go, telling myself I’d feel better if I went. While I was pedalling away on the elliptical, the wheels in my mind were spinning equally quickly. I started thinking about why it is that I can always come up with a million and one reasons for why I can put off my workouts. Why is it that they always feel so optional? As if I’ll only work out if the inspiration hits me, or I force myself, and the second something vaguely more interesting or important comes up, the workout is the first thing to get crossed off my list.

This got me thinking about what kinds of things in my life I consider optional, and which I don’t. Eating is not optional. Neither is going to the bathroom, showering, checking my email, and going to work. But most other things are optional, including watching Oprah. I soon realized that the common thread running through the […]

By |February 5th, 2008|Exercise, Tips|0 Comments

What does it really mean to be fit?

I’ve recently started getting into yoga, for the first time in many years. I took a class once when I was an undergrad and although I diligently attended classes, I never really enjoyed it (the fact that the class was downtown at the ungodly hour of 7:30 AM might have had something to do with it). Now maybe that I’m older, I find myself patient enough to enjoy its slow, meditative pace, although I definitely have a lot to learn. However, it’s gotten me thinking a lot about what it means to be fit.

I remember reading somewhere once that most people think that to be physically fit is to possess either good strength or endurance. In other words, being able to lift a lot of weight or have shapely muscles (strength), or else be able to run for a long time or have good cardiovascular fitness (endurance), is enough to be considered a fit person. However, true fitness also includes balance and flexibility. What good is it to be able to run or lift weights if you aren’t flexible? Although most people do incorporate some stretching into their routines, balance is by far the most neglected part of fitness. This is why elderly people are so prone to falling. Just like developing good musculature, good balance can also be developed. One of the best ways to develop balance and flexibility is through yoga.

Yoga also increases your sense of self-awareness, which makes yoga an ideal mind-body exercise. It takes a lot of practice and discipline, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s hard, and it can be frustrating, but I find that it’s helping me to develop more tolerance with myself. It teaches you to […]

By |January 6th, 2008|Emotional Eating, Exercise, Fitness, Yoga|0 Comments