While I was in my thirties, I was one of those people who always knew the benefits of yoga, but I was a little hesitant about showing up for a class.  Stretching had been a central part of my exercise routine, but would I be able to do all of those stereotypical pretzel moves that are associated with yoga?  I wasn’t anxious to try something out of my comfort zone, but I decided to ignore my insecurities and find out how a class could help.

 

Fortunately, the gym where I was a member offered some classes.  I felt a little awkward taking my shoes off and sitting on a mat.  I didn’t recognize anyone and the room felt uncomfortably quiet.  I will say that half of my class was men, so I wasn’t the only male open to trying something new.  I found a place in the back next to a mirror so that I wouldn’t be front and center when attempting my first yoga moves.

 

The class started by sitting in Indian style and concentrating on deep breathing.  We were told to take very full breaths through our nose and hold it for ten seconds.  I’m not sure if this is where I started learning the benefits of deep breathing, but immediately I could feel my body relax and my shoulders lowering.  We then went into a series of poses to access every muscle in the body.  While most of the moves were stretching poses, I could tell it was also strengthening many parts of my body.  Some were challenging but most were easy to figure out by peeking at others or with periodic assistance by the teacher who was walking around helping those who needed it.  I did not go as deep into the poses as others, and my form was not always the best, but I did my best to keep my balance and feel the benefits. 

 

While trying different poses, we would regularly go back to three central poses of downward dog, cobra, and child’s pose.  The first one was harder than I thought because it worked on strengthening the core and upper body.  Cobra helped build shoulder strength as well, but it also stretched the muscles in the stomach and back.  (If you’re having back pains, this exercise is a savior to alleviating the problem.) The last one was the most enjoyable since it involved being on my knees and laying my upper body forward over my legs to stretch my back and relax my body.  This was a great way to rest my body and recover if I was breathing a little heavy from the previous poses.

 

The class lasted about an hour and we finished lying on our backs and concentrating on deep breathing and releasing tension.  I walked out relaxed, refreshed and well-rounded.  I felt accomplished that I was able to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.  What’s even better is that I had stretched and strengthened my whole body to better equip me for other sports.  My muscles were loose, I had strengthened muscles that hadn’t been used before, and my balance was better. 

 

Yoga improved my:

  • strength
  • flexibility
  • balance
  • lungs
  • circulation
  • relaxation

 

While I have not turned into one of those people walking around with a yoga mat, I have embraced the benefits of how different sports and routines can benefit you physically and mentally.  Trying new activities challenges you and opens your mind and body.  So, regardless if it’s yoga, try something that’s out of your comfort zone.  You might not do it again, but you may discover some small benefits.  Trying something new will make you more adaptable and capable along with being overall a well-rounded person.

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