Yoga: Starting your practice for a healthier lifestyle

by Cathy Swanepoel

August 23, 2019

Yoga… what a hot topic these days. More and more people are talking about yoga and I for one, am very glad it’s trending! Yoga may not be to everyone’s liking, but everyone can benefit from the practice of yoga for their personal health and fitness. No matter your age or your physical capabilities, yoga has something to offer and won’t let you down. Let me share my experience with you as a young yoga enthusiast.

Why did I start?

My name is Cathy and I recently turned 23. So no, I don’t have the world’s experience behind my back, but I know my stuff when it comes to fitness and taking care of my body. I was an athlete. Track and field was my life ever since I can remember, and I went far with the sport. Triple jump and pole vault were certainly my strengths. Don’t be mistaken, I’ve done many other sports as well but in varsity I got seriously injured from a motorbike accident and never returned to the track. My health and fitness went down the drain. I needed to find a way to get my body ready for life again. For the first time, my body was a restriction and that didn’t work for me. My mom made a suggestion one day. She said maybe I must try yoga. “Yoga!?” I thought. Stretching isn’t exercise and I need something with a bit more pump as I was used to high-intensity training. My body wasn’t ready for anything with high intensity, so I needed to get back to the basics. Yoga was the only type of exercise that seemed feasible. This was 3 years ago.

My first class

At first it was strange. The instructor told the class to set an intention for your practice that day and I had no clue what she meant. No sport I’ve ever done started out with closing your eyes and setting an intention for the practice. I loved it! I loved the fact that it was different, odd and so effective. It might not be classified as high-intensity training, but it definitely got my body challenged. I started yoga by joining a class nearby but the classes for me was only a steppingstone. I soon left the classroom for online videos that I could simply do at home. I bought a cheap mat and cheap blocks just to start off with and that was enough!

Yoga mat roll-up

Starting your yoga practice

Let’s imagine a middle-aged, working mother with little time to spare. She hardly has the time to do the dishes, let alone doing exercise even though she knows her body needs a way to relieve some stress knots. There are so ways for beginners to start that costs you nothing but your time. And the best part, your practice can be anything from 5 minutes to 30 minutes if you’re an on-the-go person. For those who want more, your practice can go up to 90 minutes. It’s all up to you!

Where to start

There are many online sites with video content that can guide you through every session. Not only can you start your practice with an online instructor, there are numerous pages on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest with step by step instructions for different practises or useful tips with do’s and don’ts. I would suggest getting a mat and a pair of blocks to help yourself out but if you have a soft spot somewhere on the grass and not too sensitive joints, you can go right ahead and start your practice anywhere. One thing though… that time is your time! Yoga is not just about the physical, it’s about the whole spectrum. That means that your mind also needs practice to let go of your stresses for your time on the mat. Believe it or not, your mindset has a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of your practice. This is not just true for yoga, but for any sport that you invest your time in. Yoga is just one of the few sports that places an emphasis on your mindset and integrates this into the physical practice.

What to expect

Although I’ve made it seem like yoga is just for the general unfit person, this is far from the truth. Yoga goes to highly advanced levels and the more you practice, the more you will unleash it’s benefits and the potential it holds to improve your quality of life. That brings me to the stereotype that yoga is easy and just stretching. If this is what you think yoga is, then I challenge you to do 1 week of yoga. If you still find it easy, then you are either doing it wrong or need to do a more advanced class.

Different styles to consider

Find the style that fits you. Not all yoga practises are going to be to your liking. Some classes or schools focus more on the traditional ways of yoga that some people may describe as is a bunch of hippies practicing meditation. That’s what I thought at first, although this might be exactly the style that you like. Don’t be scared off yoga just because your first class was a bit too eccentric for you. There are more modern practises these days that you can find that is more to the high-intensity side of fitness. Try out different training videos or different classes at your local gym and find the style that works for you and that you find comfortable to continue doing. There are so many different styles these days that range from the more relaxing Vinyasa yoga to Hatha yoga, even Arial and Acro yoga. Not to mention the combinations of these various styles…

Sport strech

Benefits of Yoga

Yoga will make everyday movements easier and less strenuous. It also decreases your risk for muscle related injuries, improves your posture and prevents the breakdown of joints and cartilage. I highly recommend looking into the benefits of yoga for yourself as the ones mentioned are only a fraction of the benefits that yoga holds for every person of every age. Not to mention the outstanding effects that yoga has for stress levels #fact. Yoga has major health and fitness benefits and I have yet to find the negative side of yoga practice. If you don’t want yoga to be your main focus, you can even use aspects of it to integrate to your main sport. There really is something in it for everyone.

Yoga is integrative, fun and relaxing. Can you imagine how yoga can benefit you?

Cathy Swanepoel

By Cathy Swanepoel

Please, call me Cathy. I enjoy learning and experiencing all sorts of things and I consider myself a jack of all trades. I adapt well to change. You may even say I like it. I pay my bills and do my homework but you won't often catch me saying 'no' to a new adventure. I escaped the 9-to-5 and am currently a freelance writer. My life beyond my laptop is definitely more exciting. I'm quite the fitness fundi and extreme sports junkie with the most practice in athletics, body building, hiking and most recently, yoga, scuba diving and MTB.

Read more at triworldfitness.com

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