Okay, I want to talk for a little bit about the benefits of yoga.

I know this is nothing you haven’t heard before, but the fact is, you are hearing it from doctors or personal trainers or fitness gurus…and come on, who listens to them?  Most of them probably don’t even PRACTICE yoga, they’re just parroting what they’ve been taught.

I am here to tell you, though, that yoga is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  I could list all the things you’ve already heard, about lower blood pressure and stronger joints and stress reduction, but although those are absolutely true, you’ve already got that from the talking heads.

What I can tell you, as someone who does practice it (though not nearly as often as I’d like), is that it just makes you feel so GOOD.  On the days I do it, I feel more awake; calmer; stronger; more optimistic; more in control; and funnily enough, sexier.

I love doing it; I love the way it feels.  My muscles and joints are stretching and flexing and they feel as though they are all waking up and settling into the position they are SUPPOSED to be in, rather than the tight, cramped, unnatural position they were in from the night’s sleep or the day’s stresses.  It’s like I’m simultaneously shaking everything back into place, and like a lion inside me is waking up, stretching, and getting all ready to go hunting for the night.  (Sorry, stupid analogy, but that’s what it reminds me of – the muscles under a cat’s sleek hide flexing and stretching.  Hence, perhaps, the “sexier” part.)

I also love the way I feel afterward.  I am more awake and alert, and hence less cranky and difficult to be around.  I have not only more energy, but more positive energy, which is important.  Conversely, but simultaneously, I am more focused and able to stay on task.  My memory improves; my productivity is higher.  Yes, all this from a 20-minute yoga routine.  Laugh if you will – laughter is good for the soul! – but skeptics are invited to try it for themselves.  I do not think you will be disappointed!

I read an article recently that mentioned a study showing that yoga immediately decreases levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body.  This is good not only psychologically, but also physically, because of the effects cortisol has on the body.  Cortisol excess can lead to insulin resistance, muscle weakness and atrophy, and loss of bone mass; excess cortisol can affect tendon health, and may cause depression-type effects as well as hypertension.  In short, STRESS MAKES YOU FAT AND UNHEALTHY.

Now, this is all more stuff from the talking heads, but I can vouch for it – not because I’ve had my cortisol levels tested or anything, but because I can feel the difference.  My blood sugar stays steadier throughout the day (I am borderline hypoglycemic), my muscles are stronger and leaner, and yes, my blood pressure is down.  I test it several times a day (I am trying to convince my doctor to take me off b.p. medication) and I have found that it is at its healthiest rabge immediately following my yoga practice.

So…if you want to be healthy, if you want to be strong, if you want to lose weight, if you want to reduce your stress, or if you just want to do something that is calming, centering and makes you feel great – give yoga a try.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

This message brought to you by the National Yoga Consortium.  (Just kidding.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no such organization, and if by some chance I am wrong, I hereby state that this message, this blog, and my own thoughts on yoga are in no way endorsed by that or any other official group.)