Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

If you spent most of last year rushing around from commitment to commitment, feeling stressed and permanently tired, then this could be the most beneficial article you ever read. It’s very easy to get caught up in a world that moves at a million miles an hour and it’s commendable that you manage to achieve so much each day, but it’s not good for your health – mental or physical. If you want to avoid traveling through this year in a frenzy, it’s time for a new approach.

New Year’s resolutions often fail because we set ourselves unachievable targets. Whilst it’s great to have grand ideas, we actually benefit far more from small changes that we can fit easily into our lifestyles. It might seem like a bold statement, but committing to just one hour of yoga a week can make all the difference to your health and wellbeing.

A brighter, clearer outlook

Committing to one class a week means committing to time for yourself – something which many of us find hard to do. This hour will allow you to create some space in your busy life, to relax and to breathe. “On average we only breathe into one third of our lungs” says Yoga Teacher Wenche Beard. “Shallow breathing is one of the reasons we hold so much tension in our neck and shoulders. Deep breathing brings lots of fresh oxygen into the body, cleansing the blood and feeding the organs.” It helps with mental clarity too. Working with the breath allows us to let go of the stress that we hold onto throughout our lives and once we let go of it we can learn to live without it. Reducing our stress levels has a positive impact on our blood pressure and the health of our heart.

Renewed energy

It is very easy for our bodies to become ‘out of balance.’ Prolonged periods of sitting, carrying children and driving are just a few day to day activities that can cause tension in the body. Tension causes blockages and the energy that is used to flowing around our body gets stuck. “Yoga poses and breathing techniques are designed to free up the energy within us,” says Wenche “Our bodies are approximately 70% water, yoga opens the dams allowing the energy to flow again.”

Living without aches and pains

Yoga helps restore mobility in the body. It can ease backache, a tense neck and shoulders and even help after hip replacements. “We get used to the tension we carry in our body,” says Wenche, “It becomes part of us and we forget how to relax.” It might not happen immediately, in fact it’s likely to be a gradual process over several weeks, but as you attend regular yoga sessions, you will notice your body moving into a more relaxed state. You’ll realise that this tension is something that you don’t need to carry with you. “This is one of the reasons that yoga is so addictive,” says Wenche. “It teaches you things about your body that you didn’t know but once you learn them, you don’t want to go back to your old state of being.”

A whole body workout

Yoga is also very physically beneficial, building strength and flexibility that is unrivalled by any other form of exercise. It improves posture and body alignment, helping us to sit, stand and walk taller. It’s an addictive workout for the mind as well as the body, that’s useful and accessible to absolutely everyone from professional athletes to 80 year olds. It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes as it’s not about being the most flexible. It’s not important if you can’t stand on one leg as it’s not about having the best balance. In yoga, everyone starts from their own unique starting point. It’s about working with your own body and your own intentions.

If you only make one resolution this year, promise yourself an hour a week to breathe and relax.

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