It’s fall in Minnesota and even though the environment is telling you to slow down, we’re here to tell you the reasons why you should stay active. For the next few weeks, we’re sharing 4 reasons why you should try specific workout routines. This week, it’s yoga!
Most forms of exercise develop a certain reputation among non-practitioners. CrossFit is sometimes characterized as a cult-like indoctrination. Marathon runners are dinged for their fanatical devotion to attaining those mythic 26.2 miles, and then broadcasting their achievement to the world via bumper sticker. Rock climbers are pigeonholed as being literally unable to talk about anything other than rock climbing as a way of life. And bicyclists are seen by some as arrogant, urban, hippie warriors against the evils of automobile transport. (Granted, you don’t typically see many arguments against swimming, but that could be because you don’t often actually see people swimming.)
But among those who are attuned to their own wellness, the practice of yoga can sometimes get as much side-eye as anything. To those who have never tried it, it can appear like nothing more than slow stretching, accompanied by finger cymbal music, patchouli oils, new age spirituality and fashionable pants from Lululemon.
Look beyond the most parody-ripe elements and you’ll find an exercise method of almost infinite depth and variety. Here are 4 reasons to hang up your hang-ups and explore the chakras.
It’s Stood The Test Of Time
As you can expect from a practice that historians believe has been around for roughly 2,500 years, there are literally dozens if not hundreds of different styles and forms you can explore. Most gyms in America focus on these four types — Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Bikram. All offer a worthy workout, depending on what you’re looking for, and even those who don’t want to explore much beyond those forms will still find themselves consistently challenged by an ever-changing possibility of poses. Bikram features, by design, a strictly ordered set of 26 poses. Others are selected from a much larger variety of options, determined by your yogi. It’s entirely conceivable that the inherent flexibility (no pun intended) of yoga as an activity has helped it to endure throughout the centuries and explode in popularity over the last few.
It’s Practice, Not Performance
A lot of exercise techniques focus on the quest to be “the best.” Harder, better, faster, stronger, as the famed Daft Punk mantra goes. In that regard, yoga stands apart. Though, again, it all depends somewhat on the style of whoever is teaching your particular class, yoga allows individuals to set their own goals. Managing stress, increasing litheness, strengthening your core — these are all things you can strive for in your yoga practice. Or not. The emphasis is never placed on perfecting your craft but, rather, striving simply for improvement. You get what you give.
It Will Make You Feel Better
You won’t necessarily enjoy the mirror-worshipping experience of getting swole, but your body will feel trimmer, younger and more free. And not only immediately after class will it improve your overall gestalt, though there’s really nothing to compare with the tranquilizing centeredness you feel after a really top-notch session. One of the most important components of yoga practice involves the control of breath. You focus on breath-to-movement sequences which ensure that you’re deepening your intake, lengthening your respiration. (If you don’t believe me, try singing in your car after practice and see if you aren’t surprised by how much better and stronger your voice sounds.) And that all comes in handy as you deal with stressful situations off the mat. Breathe mindfully and you’ll be able to handle just about any stressful situation that comes your way.
It Provides A Moment Of Serenity
The quintessential catchphrase when it comes to exercise? “No pain, no gain.” If you truly believe that, then by all means continue lifting weights, pushing tractor tires, and binge watching Hulu on the elliptical. But if you’re seeking a fully rounded pursuit of wellness, yoga is worth your time investment. For an hour (or longer, if you’re ambitious), you get the chance to tune out everything, to clear your mind completely, to enjoy the beautiful paradox of being active and passive simultaneously. It’s a privileged moment.