Yoga has loads of benefits. Most obviously, it builds strength and flexibility. Maybe you’ll never end up being able to put your leg over your head, but you will gradually become stronger and more flexible. That helps protect your joints against the wear and tear of aging. People make the mistake of thinking that they have to be flexible to start with: absolutely not. The flexibility comes with practice.
I’m including it as a Way to Wellbeing because of its proven stress-reducing benefits. When you are doing yoga, whichever sort it is, you are required to move slowly and hold each position for several seconds or even longer. This is wonderful for focusing the mind and concentration and physically slowing you down – you can’t rush a yoga session! A session usually ends with a super-relaxing breathing exercise, and may involve a few minutes lying on the floor under a blanket.
What about people who don’t like doing “super-relaxing breathing exercise” and find the idea of lying on the floor under a blanket a complete turn-off and waste of time? Well, I’m one of those people, as it happens. And that’s the bit I like least so, guess what? I don’t do it. I don’t go to classes (though I have – I did a year of yoga many years ago) so if I’m using a DVD I just skip the relaxation bit because I find the exercise itself is relaxing enough. And when I did go to classes I just used that boring, enforced “relaxation” time to go through a mental list of things I’d do when I got home.
Don’t be bossed around by a yoga teacher! Just because being told to relax is relaxing for some, doesn’t mean you’re weird if it just irritates you!
But it doesn’t have to be pure yoga. You could try Yogalates, which is a mixture of yoga and pilates. Or pure Pilates. Pilates is similarly slow and strengthening but the focus is on the “core” muscles in your abdomen and it’s brilliant for preventing and treating some back problems.
How can you do this without going to classes?
Simple: get a DVD or try an online class. A simple internet search will come up with lots. The first free online one for yoga I found was Do Yoga With Me, which looks fine (though I haven’t actually tried it). Just find one that suits you. There are some Pilates ones here, though, again, you’ll find many more. You don’t need special clothes, just some comfortable leggings and t-shirt and a suitable floor to work on. You could buy a cheap exercise mat, if you wanted. A carpet isn’t ideal as your bare feet will slip – yoga and pilates are both done with bare feet.
Once you’ve practised the basic positions for either or both yoga and pilates and got the hang of them, you can then just do a few exercises before going to bed at night. Although good DVDs or online classes do the job, I do recommend going to a few classes first if you possibly can, because a professional teacher can make sure you’re doing it properly, which is really important if you want to get the benefits and not suffer injuries, but after that it’s something you can build into your life forever. A few minutes each evening: strengthening your muscles, relaxing your mind and boosting your wellbeing.
The best thing about yoga and pilates, in my opinion, is that you don’t get hot and sweaty and out of breath! (Unless you’re doing “hot yoga” – ugh!)
For all the rest of the 52 Ways to Wellbeing, put “52 Ways” into the search box at the top of this page.