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Starting Yoga: This is how you will feel

IMG_3857_Small©ChristineHewittLike all new exercise, yoga takes a little time to start revealing its effects. Expect your body to feel good, and your attitude to improve, after one month of practicing yoga exercise regularly (about three times per week). If you are a runner, cycler, hiker, or otherwise quite physically active and using yoga as a complement to that activity, practicing yoga once or twice weekly will be enough for you to feel the benefits of the exercise after just a few classes.

The restorative qualities of yoga are incredibly powerful to experience. Even with the most intense yoga classes, in only a few hours you feel rejuvenated and energized. The next day, you will feel even better!

Yes, you’ll actually feel rejuvenated – even after a strenuous Vinyasa, rigorous Ashtanga, or hot 90-minute Bikram (that’s 105 degrees and humid) class. That’s one of the big reasons yoga is such a cool workout. Our bodies love yoga. The isometrics and intense stretching in a warm or hot room resets our systems, and invigorates and restore our bodies and focuses our minds.

Yoga class CYoga involves intense concentration, breath coordinated to movement, and a constant tuning in to your body as your move through the positions. A yoga session should be intense enough that there is space in your mind to think only about the posture you are doing (not what your boss said, your to-do list, or your next meal). In this way, it’s a wonderful break in the day’s routine. The rhythmic patterned breathing, and some of the longer holds and stretches, have a relaxing effect. Unlike other exercise where you need time afterwards to recover, yoga exercise restores and invigorates your body and mind.

Those of us over forty may know the humbling walk to the shower the morning after a game of full court basketball, a 10k race, a new weight routine at the gym, or a few sets of tennis. Yoga provides a counterbalance to that activity. Practicing yoga the day after will help with soreness and recovery.

Yoga will even improve your game by tuning your micro-muscles, giving you added strength and agility. Check out the long list of top professional athletes who practice yoga , or the retired pros who credit yoga with prolonging successful careers. So many across the sports spectrum practice and praise their yoga workouts. Click here to see our post on the eye opening list of pro-athletes, many players known for durability and stamina.

After three months, your body will be stronger. You will notice you have more energy. You will notice the strength when you do other exercise; when you shovel or rake the leaves; when you pick up and carry your child. You will be incrementally more flexible and have a larger range of motion. Because of yoga, I was stronger at 50 than I was at 25. And I have heard this same observation from many yoga practitioners. You won’t get tired as quickly as you used to; and you will have that extra energy you need to do to accomplish all that you are working toward in your life.

Some yoga classes involve a lot of chatarangas, which are like push-ups. This can create a little muscle soreness the next day – but it’s nothing like a weight machine. The stretching, controlled breathing, and lots of sweat has the effect of rinsing out your body as you go. Your muscles work, and release.

There is a significant and growing body of clinical research that supports the health effects of yoga. They confirm what many practitioners have seen for years: yoga is good for your heart and skeletal system, good for reducing blood pressure, even good for your sex life. For more information on all these studies, read our post. (Yoga exercise – Clinical Studies – physical health).

You’ll find too that yoga exercise improves your attitude, concentration and mood. There are clinical studies that validate this too. Or just ask some long-time practitioners if they’ve noticed any changes. Better yet, try it yourself! Read our post, (Yoga and a Better Attitude – Clinical Studies and Surveys).

Practice yoga for a month and you will notice an improved concentration and focus. A heightened awareness that enables you to see yourself more clearly and as a result pause between stimulus and response. Top pro-athletes credit yoga to helping them get in the “zone” and for the rest of us, it is making better choices. Improved awareness, and ability to pause before you choose, translates into more control of what you eat or don’t eat.

To be candid – and I do not recommend this, but there have been a few occasions – I’ve woken up with a hangover, and the only thing I’ve found that speeds up a rebound is 90 minutes of hot yoga. Never do this unless you are well experienced with hot yoga (if you’ve taken at least ten hot yoga classes). Your body might not handle the combination of heat, exercise, and alcohol, and you could feel pretty ill. But if you are used to hot yoga, it’s an amazing hang-over helper!

One more surprise effect of a yoga practice: it is different every time! Every practice session is  different and can reveal new body awareness. Although I don’t spend the whole practice in a perfect state of focus and concentration, I experience times in every practice where I am completely in the moment, and realize afterward that this allowed me to come into some position just a bit better. If you’ve never done yoga, you may not believe this.. but feeling yourself coming closer to “nailing” that position is actually as satisfying as sinking a 15-foot putt, executing a great reverse lay-up – or serving an ace that you knew was an ace the moment you connected with that ball. That said, you do not have to get all the way into a yoga position to benefit. I am not that flexible after more than ten years of yoga, so “nailing” a pose for me is getting as far into it in proper alignment as I can.

We wish it wasn’t so, but we all know this to be true: there’s no magic wand in any exercise. You have to just do it. Sometimes you won’t want to do it. So join us, get our FREE 20-minute yoga refresh, try our Style Guide to find the right yoga style for your needs and goals, and sign up for our email list and we will make it interesting. We promise you’ll have some fun as you learn more about yoga , and how to get started practicing yourself when you’re ready.

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