Who Practices Yoga?

Today’s guest post is by Carolyn Fallon.  Carolyn Fallon is a 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well being.  She is an avid cycler, golfer and has known to bust some serious moves on the dance floor.  Check out Carolyn’s blog at http://fullonfit.blogspot.com

In the Western world, the image of the typical Yoga practitioner is a younger, healthy women who focuses on good nutrition and exercise. She is often progressive and hip to modern ideals. This stereotype, however, is changing, and the demographics of the typical Yogi are expanding far beyond this image. Here are a few groups of people who are learning Yoga.

Professional athletes are always looking for a competitive edge. It was professional athletes who began the healthy diet and workout trends in the middle of the 20th century, and their efforts have often been at the forefront of new health technologies. Athletes in a wide range of sports are turning to Yoga in large numbers.  Dr. Glen Axelrod of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center even claims, “Many professional athletic teams use yoga as an integral part of their training.”  Gymnasts are using Yoga as an alternative to traditional stretching exercises, and they are finding that Yoga also helps them with their balance. Wrestlers and Judo competitors are using Yoga to improve their flexibility and gain body control while on the ground. Even football players are using Yoga to achieve a full range of physical skills.

Yoga has an additional benefit for athletes beyond the physical improvements; Yoga helps with concentration and focus. Certain physical attributes are necessary to perform well in all sports, but the mental skills are what separates mediocre athletes from great ones. Athletes often talk about being in “the zone,” and Yoga can help athletes maintain the high concentration levels necessary to perform at the highest levels possible. Routine and consistency help athletes maintain their necessary workout and practice schedules, and Yoga can be easily integrated into these regimens.

The advantages of Yoga practice have not been lost in the business world. Large companies are increasingly running Yoga classes for their employees. The mental edge athletes gain from Yoga practice help in the business world as well as workers who are able to maintain a high level of concentration through the day perform better than those who cannot. Intelligence and experience are helpful, but the ability to concentrate that Yogi fosters can make the difference between success and failure.

Further, research is showing the benefits physical fitness has on the mind. The Greek ideal of “a sound mind in a sound body” is being shown to have validity with modern research. While the mind-body connection is not yet fully understood, those who improve their physical fitness demonstrate a greater ability to accomplish difficult tasks and work better than those who do not. Yoga is a great step towards achieving a the sound body that helps lead to a more acute mind. Yoga also has the advantage of being safe; workers of all ages and fitness levels will be able to begin practicing certain Yoga techniques. As their physical fitness increases, Yoga students will be able to add to their repertoire. This often has a domino effect on Yoga students, and many enjoy practicing what they have learned in class at home.

Yoga is often associated with urban, cosmopolitan regions; California and Florida are often considered to be two areas that embrace Yoga at a higher rate. However, Yoga is finding its way into more rural, conservative regions as well. Research is consistently showing a wide range of health benefits for Yoga students, and doctors throughout the Western world are encouraging patients to begin practicing Yoga to improve their health and well-being. Yoga classes are generally fairly inexpensive, and it only requires a mat practice. Further, Yoga can be practiced in small spaces. It is also easier to begin practicing Yoga than to begin running or lifting weights. For doctors who are trying to help patients improve their well-being, Yoga is a great tool.

Part of the success of Yoga is its transcendent ability to help its practitioners relax and unwind. Yoga emphasizes breathing exercises that calm the mind, and the deep, slow stretches encourage a full level of relaxation throughout the body. With the rigors and demands placed upon those who deal with the stresses of modern life, Yoga is a wonderful tool to keep much of the stress at bay. With its combination of physical and mental benefits, Yoga is a great tool to help people get through the difficulties day-to-day activities in a relaxed, positive manner.

 

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