Trying the Next Shiny, New Thing
Decreased energy, aches and pains, bothersome fatigue and looking and feeling “old” are all a part of life, isn’t it? Maybe even exercise programs and the latest diet or nutrition programs leave much to be desired in the way of trying to feel better. Just trying to “find” something that works can leave you exhausted!
The fountain of youth, health and energy travels on a lonely road that runs right beside the congested highway of gimmicks, tricks and promises. The answer is not in a potion, a pill or a drink. It’s honestly in an age-old tradition that’s often overlooked.
It’s on the less-traveled road called Yoga.
What Yoga IS
Yoga is more of a science, or a practice than it is an application or a routine. It shows you ‘how to be’ rather than ‘what to do.’ As a nation, we’re accustomed to following plans, steps, etc. to get to a certain action and can you leave you feeling somewhat empty.
Just learning ‘how to be’ allows your body to heal itself, release stress, lose weight and conquer health issues. This science or practice takes focus and fortitude, but lasts a lifetime and rewards you much, much more.
Yoga deals with more than just the physical body, but it also incorporates the mind, the soul, your breathing and your entire body, working to bring you to a state of wholeness and completeness.
When your mind, body and soul are whole, you can experience permanent states of well-being, renewed energy levels, improved health conditions and youthfulness.
You feel better. You look better. You become better.
What Yoga Is NOT
Don’t expect to be converted over to any religion when you start practicing yoga. Remember, yoga doesn’t dictate anything to you, and no one will try to convert you over. It’s not that at all.
While there are yoga classes where you can participate, classes are not where yoga is. Structured classes are simply vehicles to use to learn how to correctly perform yoga moves.
Meaning, it’s not the same thing for everyone. Every individual will experience different stages of awareness when they incorporate yoga into their lives.
I Run For Fun
Distance running was something that I decided to take up later in life. My husband and I were finished with our family plans, and I was eager to get my body back into pre-mommy shape. So, I began running.
I started running in the neighborhood
I even ran with the kids at the park…or was it behind them?
Even running in marathons and races became my thing to do!
Yes, I loved running…at least for a little while.
The Calm Before the (Pain) Storm
When I first started running, everything felt great. My body was responding quite well in losing weight and toning up nicely. But later on, months later, is when things started to change. Running started to h-u-r-t, or more specifically, my muscles would hurt when I ran.
The pain was so bad sometimes that I’d forgo my newfound love of running because I just didn’t want to hurt afterwards. In talking to my veteran running friends, I discovered something crucial that I needed to do that I had never realized.
They told me to start doing Yoga.
I needed to stretch my muscles, and was advised by my uber-runner friends to do so on a routine basis. More pointedly, they said I needed to perform Yoga-specific stretching routines that would work directly with the muscles and loosen up all of the tightness I was feeling.
Yoga? For a runner? Really??
Yoga Girl Is Born
To me, initially this advice sounded pretty boring. I was, after all, a brand new runner so I didn’t want to waste my time doing Yoga two to three times a week, and what for? I thought all that yoga could do for me was relax my mind, not strengthen my quads or increase my energy or endurance.
I was wrong.
As reluctant and as stubborn as I was, I decided to incorporate yoga into my running routine, thinking that it would be something I’d do to just pass the time. I started out doing Yoga stretches after my long runs. Then, I started doing Yoga sessions for three times a week.
That’s when my running life began to change.
There was NO MORE soreness or tightness after my weekly long runs. My limbs became more flexible. I noticed an increase in my endurance. I had more energy.
Yoga became my friend.
Through yoga, your body unifies and becomes whole, which is also the meaning of the word. Once I became aware of my body, what it did (and didn’t) respond to, how it felt, I actually felt better and more energetic, slept better and yes, I ran faster!!
There Were Regrets
I actually do wish now that I had started doing Yoga earlier in my running career and even earlier in my fitness journey. But unfortunately, my faulty thinking about the “ohms” of the Yoga lifestyle kept me from getting all that I could out of it.
It turns out that Yoga is a widely practiced profession not just in the standard Yoga communities but also for the athletic and average fitness communities in general. With so much advancement in and awareness of the benefits of science-based Yoga, people are embracing the lifestyle as a way to increase energy levels and youthfulness.
Yoga: The Basics
Yoga doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially if you know some of the basics to begin with and simply work towards perfecting those. Most Yoga poses teach you to rely on your breathing techniques and meditation awareness.
Breathing properly clears and cleanses the lungs and allows your cells and muscles to grow and strengthen. Since westernized yoga generally focuses on physical poses (also called asanas), you will learn how to use and move your body in new, different ways. As a result, you’ll experience higher levels of energy and a reduction in those aches and pains.
Begin each Yoga session with these as you stretch the length of your entire body in an upwards motion, towards the “sun.” This pose will loosen and limber the entire body in preparation for more Yoga poses.
The Easy Pose
Also known as the Meditative pose, you are seated with each leg bent at the knee, and the leg is crossed over and rested on the opposite thigh. With the back erect but loose, remember to breath. This pose helps to straighten the spine, slows metabolism, and promotes your inner focus and tranquility. This is also the pose responsible for your energy levels!
Neck, Facial and Shoulder Routines
Highly underrated as a routine, but neck tensions are a major source of body stress that can lead to tension and poor posture. There’s no more tightness and stiffness, but harmony and flexibility. This is also how you can achieve a more youthful appearance with toned and tightened neck muscles.
Tension can also be very high in the shoulders and lead to energy depletion. This routine can increase flexibility and tone shoulder muscles as well as improve overall posture. The moves are “shoulder shrugs” that you hold briefly as you take in deep, cleansing breaths.
Single/Double Leg Raises
By laying flat and slowly raising and lowering both legs, your back is strengthened, your core is strengthened and in addition, you’re increasing your metabolism (weight loss) as well as loosening your muscles for flexibility.
What Yoga Does: In and Out
Feeling that energy and vitality in your body comes by decreasing the ravages of stress on it. Yoga practices work to reduce cortisol, a body hormone that responds to stress levels.
Less cortisol equals less stress.
Other body chemicals that significantly enhance stress moods including GABA, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals are credited with giving us those relaxed, content feelings that the brain sends out when our bodies are stabilized, as in doing yoga routines.
So how does Yoga affect these chemicals?
When our bodies are stressed or upset, our nervous system works tirelessly to restore balance. Yoga poses work on the parasympathetic nervous system to stimulate and calm it in response to stress. Organs and tissues respond to the parasympathetic nervous system in a fascinating way:
- Blood is directed toward the endocrine glands (better circulation)
- The heart rate and blood pressure are lowered (calmness and contentment)
- Digestive organs receive an increase in blood flow (better absorption)
- Lymphatic circulation is enhanced through an increased blood flow (improved elimination)
Once there is blood stimulation through the parasympathetic nervous system, the body goes into a state of elimination, healing and repair. There is a decrease in body inflammation, which is responsible for a myriad of physical ailments including diabetes and depression. Other benefits include:
- The body extracts nutrients more efficiently, directing and routing them to crucial areas.
- Toxins are eliminated as a result of enhanced circulation thereby allowing nutrients to work optimally.
- The immune system is strengthened, helping to stave off sicknesses.
- Restoration and healing are heightened because the systems are working cohesively.
The result? There is an increase in energy levels. The skin is clearer and that promotes a youthful appearance. Finally, there is an overall improvement in internal health with the blood, tissues and organs functionality.
Yoga For You
There are a myriad of Yoga poses and strategies that you can use to incorporate into your routine right away. Even if you don’t have an exercise routine, these Yoga moves will work out your body, strengthen and relax you all simultaneously:
Low Lunge Pose
This is one of my favorite poses as a runner. It strengthens the thighs and the quads and helps me run stronger and faster.
Cross the front knee over your ankle with your fingertips down by the sides of your feet. With your thigh parallel to the ground, reach as far back with the opposite foot as you can.
Great for abs strengthening. Not only will you feel energetic, but you’ll also tone and tighten those muscles.
As you lower your torso and legs to the floor, your body forms a wide V. Make sure to not touch the ground for a more intense feeling.
Also great for abs and core strengthening. Sit with your knees bent but with your feet flat. Lean back, holding yourself steady and grab your knees as you raise your feet off the floor.
This move progresses from the Boat Pose by tipping your knees from side to side with a steady motion.
Arm Balance (ing)
Likely one of the more difficult poses, but will reward you exceptionally with overall strength, focus and body awareness. Plus, the challenge of this pose is something to strive for as you steady the full weight of your body rested on your forearms.
This pose builds strength and stamina. By using your hands and knees, your forearms are near to the ground and your elbows are directly under your shoulders. The belly is straight up and forms a high V-shape.
Plank (front and side planks)
A very commonly known Yoga move as well. Support your body weight either on your hands or elbows for one to two minutes, or more. Builds strength in the core and is a full-body toner. Remember to draw in the abs for more support.
Upward Dog Stretch
Lying face down with the tops of your feet on the mat, bend your elbows, placing palms downward beside you. Push straight up without locking your elbows and lift your legs and torso into the air. This opens up your chest and helps make you completely flexible.
Variety is The Yoga Spice
I often mix up each of these poses, or do different ones for different training purposes. On intense workout days, I generally focus a lot on those poses that fully stretch out the muscles and I hold the pose for a few extra seconds.
On light days, I like to challenge myself and incorporate new Yoga poses or increase my intensity on poses I already know. There is a never anything dull or boring now, especially since I can see and feel the benefits of the program.
Whichever style or type of Yoga pose you choose is purely personal since it will benefit you. All of the poses however will help you immensely in developing your flexibility, balance and strength, not to mention the incredible feeling of energy and youthfulness you’ll feel afterwards. This is why it’s important to not concern yourself with the “right” way to do Yoga, but more importantly, find what works best for you and your goals.
With the information you have here, coupled with your own ideas and creativity, you can customize your own scientific approach to design a Yoga-based routine that your body will respond favorably to. So whether you want to lose weight, de-stress your mind or eliminate those annoying aches and pains, a scientific approach to a Yoga routine with your own agenda can help you to accomplish just that!
[Editors Note: Many people (well, most) have only heard the word Yoga, and even less know what scientific yoga is all about. Well, it's time to open your eyes my friend. There is a REASON why most people who experience Yoga can't leave without it. No more aches, no more pains, more energy, better concentration and much more. ShapeShifter's 28 day program might be one of the most valuable hidden secrets in this niche (make SURE to watch the video ).]