My most persuasive friend, however, refused to take no for an answer, rattling off a handful of ways yoga would supposedly change my life. And so I attended my first yoga class - under duress, mind you - with a goal to prove her wrong. But an addiction was born that very day; an undeniable, insatiable addiction to yoga. Now it's time for me to confess to you why I regret becoming a yoga addict.
I know, I know, yoga has its positive points. For example, there are some undeniable advantages that all yogis will cite when they're trying to make you one of us.
This one's obvious enough, right? All of those yoga poses are bound to loosen you up and increase your flexibility. At my first yoga class, I couldn't even touch my toes without wincing in pain. Now, I might be mistaken for a contortionist. You know what else is pretty neat about my dramatically increased flexibility? All of those minor muscle aches and pains I'd had over the years suddenly disappeared. Inflexibility contributes to a host of other issues, from poor posture to back pain.
It wasn't long into my yoga addiction that I started to notice my body becoming more toned. I had the strength that I had never had before. Not only did I start to like the way my body looked, but I also noticed a big difference in how my body felt. Yes, it's nice to have a muscular, toned body - particularly during bathing suit season- but there are other benefits of increased strength too. As we age, strong muscles help prevent conditions commonly faced by elderly people, such as arthritis and back pain.
There are several positions in yoga that require you to support your own weight (think Downward-Facing Dog, for one). It's well-known that weight-bearing exercises are key to building bone strength. Strong bones help prevent osteoporosis - a condition that causes brittle and fragile bones that can fracture easily.
The adrenal glands, which secrete the stress hormone cortisol, can cause some undesirable side effects in the body when not regulated properly. Elevated cortisol levels can compromise the immune system, contribute to depression and anxiety, cause high blood pressure, and even contribute to insulin resistance. Yoga works to combat these issues by lowering cortisol levels in the body.
As it turns out, yoga affects the brain too. Yoga calls for a focus on the present, and people who practice it regularly reap benefits like better reaction time, improved coordination, and even a memory boost. Although a definitive reason for these changes hasn't yet been determined, focusing on the present - and not distracting yourself with intrusive thoughts - likely plays a role.
For most of us, daily life is exhausting - and often over-stimulating. Too much stimulation negatively impacts the body's nervous system. Yoga provides an escape from the complexities of everyday life, allowing the nervous system to have some downtime. This often results in deeper sleep at night, and subsequently, increased energy in the morning.
So, there you have it: just a few of the many benefits of yoga. Improved physical and mental health, better sleep, a sharper memory - and that's just scratching the surface of yoga's positive impact on the body. So, why would I regret such a beneficial addiction? Remember those friends I mentioned earlier - the ones who forced me into my first class? Well, becoming an addict required me to admit an unpleasant truth: my friends were right all along.
Photo Credt: Bigtock