older yogis resizedWhat do you need your exercise routine to do? Make you more flexible? Improve your balance? Help prevent falls? Reduce aches and pains? Lower your stress level?

Yoga can do all that, and more. “The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome,” explains Dr. Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor.

“Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.” You can read more about the physical and mental benefits of yoga here: tinyurl.com/mqerpga. Perhaps you’ve considered trying yoga but feared you may be judged for being out of shape, be challenged beyond your abilities, or not be flexible enough. Or maybe you thought you would have to look like a yogi on the cover of a yoga journal, participate in an unfamiliar religious ritual, or buy special clothing.

Yoga does not require any of the above.
I am neither a yogi nor an expert on the subject. I’m a 50-plus year old mom who has been practicing yoga for about 16 years. By sharing my own experience with yoga, I hope to allay your fears and encourage you to give it a try. One definition of Yoga, according to Dictionary.com is “any of the methods or disciplines prescribed, especially a series of postures and breathing exercises practiced to achieve control of the body and mind, tranquility, etc.” This is the yoga I practice, with special attention to my own abilities and limitations.

I attended my first yoga class when my daughter was an infant, when I had muscles still stiff from pregnancy and lack of exercise. The weekly evening class gently loosened me up, eased my pain, and cleared my mind. I was hooked. I bought a couple of instructional videos after the class ended and was delightfully surprised at the range of motion I gained, and my hips no longer ached when I lay down in bed at night. I continued to practice weekly at my gym for years. That mid-week hour of escape and renewal became necessary to my physical and emotional well-being.

Through the years, I have dabbled in a number of yoga classes at gyms and yoga studios, plus home practice. My husband and I practice gentle yoga weekly (http://tinyurl.com/zpqq5ro) with a certified teacher in our home. For several years, I had unexplained pain in my shoulder, diagnosed by an orthopedic surgeon as a muscle injury. I tried the exercises he prescribed, which helped. But it was the stretching and relaxation of weekly gentle yoga that all but eliminated the pain in my shoulder.

There are many different styles of yoga (doyogawithme.com/types-of-yoga ), from Power Yoga to Chair Yoga; and every yoga pose (position) can be modified to accommodate different levels of ability and flexibility. A yoga practice can be as simple as doing one or two poses a day, such as my favorites, legs up the wall and supine twist. The one pose common to every yoga session is shavasana, a relaxation pose at the end of class.

If you are a beginner, start your practice in a class or private lessons with a certified instructor to prevent injury. After you learn the basics, you can use videos and/or practice on your own.

Read more for tips on finding a yoga teacher who is right for you: tinyurl.com/z2vt5zg.

You can find beginning yoga classes at
Yoga studios
Your local gym or YMCA
Community centers
Senior centers

Go to yogaalliance.org/directory to find certified yoga teachers and schools in your area.

Like most things in life, the more you practice yoga, the more it will benefit you. Daily practice is ideal; however, I have learned that doing yoga even infrequently can make you feel better. The most important thing to remember is that your yoga practice is your practice. You need only do what you are comfortable with and what gives you peace.

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