Yoga Class

As Yoga Girl founder Rachel Brathen has said so beautifully, “The yoga pose is not the goal. Becoming flexible or standing on your hands is not the goal. The goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil layers of protection your have built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates. To make peace with who you are. The goal is to love, …well, you. “

Yoga is a tool and a resource.

I tried my first hot yoga class over 20 years ago. After 90 minutes of intense sweating, bending, folding, stretching and breathing, I was lying on the floor in savasana and  I felt a calm that I had never experienced from lifting weights or cardio. I was exhausted, much as I would be from any hard workout, but there was a release and a peace to the exhaustion that I had just never found in my workouts.

I continued going every day for two months and found I was such a different person mentally that I wasn’t sure if I was more hooked on the physical or the mental aspects of it ( I had become limber, strong and lost weight). Either way, throughout my life yoga has been an ongoing source of renewal, quiet, energy, and good vibes for me and I am so grateful I found it to add to my toolbox.

In this post I will go over my top five reasons you should try yoga and I hope that after reading this, you will give yoga a try.  And if you are already a fan, that you will hop on your mat with gratitude for the awesomeness of this amazing practice of wellness, peace and joy.

1. It’s accessible for everyone.

One of the most wonderful things about yoga is that anyone can do it. Let me repeat that- ANYONE- can do yoga.  It does not matter what your age, height, weight or body frame size is. It does not matter how flexible or athletic you are. It does not matter if your have health or body  restrictions or challenges.

Yoga is for everyone because it is about doing what you are able to and modifying as needed. There are props- foam blocks, straps, blankets, pillows, bolsters and more to allow you to comfortably participate at the level that is appropriate for you right where you are at.

So many people are scared to try yoga and they say “I am not flexible enough, I am too old, I am too out of shape..”. But, the reality is that those are EXACTLY the reasons you should try yoga! To be more flexible, to reduce the effects of aging on our bodies, and to get into shape!

2. It’s portable and there are a lot of options to choose from.

Just like everyone can do yoga, you can also do yoga anywhere- with or without a mat. It could be a studio, a beach, a grassy yard, a hotel room, or on your bed! Tara Stiles of Strala Yoga has a collection of fantastic bed yoga videos (a positively delicious way to wake up and get into the groove for the day!) on YouTube.

I love to practice in a class at a studio. And it’s where I would recommend anyone new to yoga start to try it, because you will have an instructor there to guide you through poses, help you make safe adjustments to get the most out of your practice. And you will be able to experience the energy and social connections a class provides.

Establishing a home practice is another great way to fit in yoga if you have a really busy schedule or do not have a studio or class near your home or work. There are DVD’s, online classes, and books that are all great resources to create a varied home practice. Glo.com is a great resource for online classes by world famous yoga teachers. A home practice is also useful to have established if you travel frequently and do not have the time to experiment with classes from local studios in the areas you are visiting.

The other fabulous thing about yoga is that if you don’t like one kind of yoga, there are at least a dozen other varieties to try and you will know when you have found “the one” for you. For me it was hot yoga and restorative yoga. I highly recommend trying many different kinds, because each has something unique to teach you and for you to take away from it. You can read about different approaches and varieties, look online in the larger yoga studio’s at their class offerings and try a sampling of different classes, or watch and research on YouTube.

3. It improves your focus and forces you to slow down.

You have to be present while you practice and if you are a Type A personality or a hyper busy multi-tasker, yoga can be a fantastic tool to keep you from burning out and to keep you balanced mentally.

Yoga requires you to focus inward- on your breath, your movements, and your body’s sensations and feelings as you move through your practice. You will be forced to stop thinking about what you need to do, what you didn’t do, what’s for dinner, the meeting tomorrow, etc. for seconds, minutes and even an hour at a time.

Yoga practice is a direct route to mindfulness and checking in with your inner self and your well-being. Every time you practice will be different. One day you come to the mat tired and drained, the next day you might be joyful and exuberant. Some days you will be agitated and will not be able to concentrate for more than 5 seconds, others you will be calm and settle into a state of ease.

That is the beauty of the experience of yoga, every single time you bring where you are in your life to the mat and that is what it is about- checking in with yourself and living in this moment fully.

4. It’s a chance to get quiet with yourself.

Yoga is personal and yoga is community. Often classes will end with the teacher closing the class and the students repeating back to him/ her the word “Namaste” which translates into “the light within me honors the light within you”.

Every time we come to the mat, we bring whatever is going on for us that day and that moment- good, bad, ugly or beautiful. And every time we leave our mat, we leave a different person than when we came to it and hopefully we take that better version of ourselves- that version that is kinder, softer, more relaxed, centered, calm, grounded, and peaceful out into the world and we share that vibe with others.

We live in a over-stimulated world that moves at a wickedly fast pace. The 20, 30 or 60 minutes you spend on your mat may be the only time in a day you have to ground yourself and slow down. Go try a a class and see if you don’t agree that you feel more connected to your inner self, feelings, mood, and needs. And maybe you leave nicer, more patient, and loving.

5. It makes you look good and feel good.

Yes, it’s vain but it’s certainly a valid reason to try yoga and stick with it. There is a reason yogi’s and yogini’s age well mentally and physically- check out Tao Porchon-Lynch who is a phenomenal example of the power of yoga and graceful aging. She has led a remarkable and fascinating life of 100 years and still teaches yoga on a regular basis! I follow her Instagram and dream that I am 1% as awesome as she is when I reach 100.

Yoga strengthens muscles, bones, organs, circulation and energy flow while also improving balance, flexibility, and overall body function. Yoga can detox skin, reduce stress, improve your sex life (read this article for more on that) and give you more energy and calm. Who doesn’t want all of the above?  Not a fan of Botox or fillers? Give this face yoga ritual featured in Marie Claire UK a try as a natural alternative.

I hope you will enjoy your first yoga class as much as I did mine and it becomes a life long love affair. 

And if you are a yoga teacher or studio in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul metro or Madison area please join the collective and share you talents and practice with us! 

Cheers & Be Well,

Heather Sloan initials

Heather Sloan

Heather Sloan
Founder & CEO,          The Alt Care Collective