The first time I came in contact with yoga, I was in the park near my home getting ready to hike when I saw a group of people near the entrance, on the grass. Each moved in together, in unison, in sync with one sound: the voice of the instructor, who was weaving through the rows of yogis, calmly speaking. That’s the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, I thought to myself. I wanted to discover this way of movement for myself. I wanted to give yoga a try.
I took my first yoga class that week on that exact same grass—and that was it for me. I had found a new, amazing activity that I loved so much. And since then, I haven't been able to stop practicing.
In the four years since I started doing yoga, I've learned so much about myself as a person. I feel strong and happy, and I can’t wait to go back to my mat every single day. Because of what yoga did for me, I recently decided to become a yoga instructor. I hope to help other see the light in yoga.
Since then, I've been faced so many times with so many questions: "What is yoga?" "Is it actually a good workout?" "Does it really heal people?" "How do I start?" "Is yoga for me?"
I asked myself the same questions. And then I went out to get answers. What I discovered? Yoga is whatever you want it to be. People get on their yoga mats for so many different reasons. We are all different, and desire different things in life.
As for me, yoga is the quieting of the mind. Yoga is not just about working out, it’s about choosing a healthy life. The practice of yoga allows men and women to find stillness in a world consumed with chaos. Peace and tranquility achieved through focused training appeals to everyone.
Yoga’s focus on strength training and flexibility is an incredible benefit to your body, too. The postures are meant to strengthen your body from the inside, out—so you don’t just look good, you feel good, too. Each yoga pose is built to reinforce the muscles around the spine, the very center of your body that is the core from which everything else operates. When the core is working properly, posture is improved, thus alleviating back, shoulder, and neck pain.
Most yoga studios and local gyms offer yoga classes that are open to all generations and fitness levels. It’s exciting to enter a room full of young teens, athletes, middle-aged moms, older gentlemen, and even fitness buffs and body builders. Everyone can feel accepted and included. And, unlike other sports or classes that focus on niche clients, yoga tends to offer new students with open arms. Whether you like to say “Om” or you can’t stand the word “yogi”; whether you are 92, 53, or even 12, I know yoga can help you.
One of the benefits of yoga is that there are so many variations of the practice, so you can choose a style that’s tailored to your lifestyle, such as hot yoga, power yoga, relaxation yoga, or prenatal yoga. As it's low impact and doesn't take up much space, you can practice at home, while watching a DVD, or you can do it in a private session, at a studio, or a gym. There are a huge variety of options available to suit your goals and needs.
If you’re a beginner and want to start slow, or if you’re just looking for a different kind of flow, I created the above video with that begins with Yoga surya Namaskar B to help warm up your body and inspire you to start a yoga practice of your own.
Deddeh Howard is a fashion & lifestyle blogger, yogi, and student of medicine. Follow her on Instagram.