Ahh, finally...the post where I get to rave about how much I love to do yoga! 

I had my first experience with yoga the summer after I graduated high school, when I worked outdoors at a public gardens and arboretum.  During the second part of the summer, the staff all paid a certain amount to have a yoga teacher come out to the arboretum and do classes outside near one of the ponds (so beautiful!).  It was won.der.ful.  I quickly noticed that my back didn't hurt nearly as bad from being stooped over pulling weeds on the days that I had yoga class in the morning.  It made me feel happier, less stressed, and left me open to face the challenges of the day with a positive attitude. 

I've really come to believe that attitude is everything in life, from getting through a stressful week of schoolwork to finding the motivation to keep working out and eating right.  If I wake up in the morning and think, "I feel fat, it's gonna be hard to get my fruit and veggies in today, my back hurts, I have no time to workout" then I'm going to start the day with good intentions, perhaps eating a healthy breakfast, but eventually I'll end up giving in to the negativity and eating bagels, cookies, and go out to eat for dinner at place with no healthy options.  At the end of the day, I'll feel even worse than when I woke up, and the same thing will probably happen the next day.  But if I get up in the morning and think "I may have gained weight but I can work on that, I'll do my best to eat well, my back hurts but a little yoga would help, I don't have much time but could go for a walk between classes", then I guarantee you I'm going to have a successful, healthy day and the next day I will be proud of my choices and attitude and have a second healthy day to boot. 

By making my body feel good and helping my mind to be calm, yoga improves my attitude.  Plus, all I need to do it is my yoga mat!  I just got a new one for Christmas from Gaiam.  If you're new to yoga, I highly recommend you pay the money to attend a beginner's yoga class.  I've taken two now, and having a live instructor is invaluable when it comes to learning the correct alignment for the poses.  If you don't, you could really hurt yourself.  If you really can't afford it, then go to my favorite website, Yogatic.  Esther, a Dutch woman living in Ireland, posts free, excellent yoga videos there.  She recently released a beginner DVD, but it's priced in Euros and I have no idea what shipping to the States would cost.  In any case, just use her search bar to find some videos labeled "beginner" or something like that.  She also has great and thorough written explanations of individual poses with pictures.  Look through her site, I'm sure you'll love it as much as I do.  In fact, I did 40 minutes of yoga this morning (10 more than my goal of 30 minutes of movement per day!).  These are the videos I did in the order I did them:

First, the Warm Up for Yoga
Then, this Flow with Jessica Hatchett which is centered around Downward Facing Dog pose
After that, this Yoga for Opening the Hips

To finish, I did some of my favorite poses to relieve lower back pain, which I experience a lot.  I also did some calming, restorative poses just to relax at the end.  

That was a few hours ago.  Now, I feel calm and uplifted.  My limbs feel long and well-stretched, and there's no tension in my hips.  I don't feel stiff or sore.  I am definitely going to make an effort to do at least a few minutes of yoga every day.  It's better to do a little every day than a full sequence only a few days a week.  At least, that's what I've noticed is better for me. 

By the way, if anybody tells you that yoga won't help you lose weight, they are absolutely wrong.  It's not a cure-all, but I think we're all smart enough to realize that exercise of any kind has to be in addition to healthy eating and overall mindfulness of our state of mind.  But yoga can definitely help you reach your goals.  A couple years ago I managed to lose about twelve pounds (the most I've ever lost to date), and I did it mostly through eating well and doing yoga.  You just have to look for sequences that have you constantly moving or really testing your muscles, like the sequence with Jessica Hatchett above.  That video had me dripping so much sweat onto my mat I had to get a towel, no joke.  But maybe I'm just sweaty, haha.  :P

Anyway, check out that site!  Try some yoga!  If you do it right, meaning that you feel your body's limitations and only go so far into the poses as you can handle, you'll love it.  The best thing about yoga is that you can always improve.  You can always stretch a little deeper or hold a pose a little longer, and everything can be modified if the flexibility for the standard pose just isn't there for you (for example, in the warm up video when Esther has you extend your leg straight up in the air, stretching it with a belt or scarf, I always have to do the modification where I bend the other knee to help my leg straighten out - my hamstrings are ungodly tight right now). 

I hope you liked this post.  Let me know if you're a yoga lover like me!  Namaste!

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