Friday, September 7, 2012

National Yoga Month

Did you know that September is the official National Yoga Month? It is a designation that the US Department of Health and Human Services gave to educate people about the health benefits of yoga and inspire a healthy lifestyle.
To celebrate National Yoga Month, thousands of yoga studios across the country are offering free yoga classes for a week! That means you can try yoga for free! I highly recommend this! Not only is now a great time to start yoga if you have never tried it before, but having access to free classes allows you to try out studios you might not otherwise visit. For more information about a free week of yoga visit the Yoga Health Foundation.  A little nervous to try yoga? Take a look at my post "Thinking about Yoga".  Or take a look at these 10 reasons to practice yoga:

1. STRESS RELIEF: Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress on the body.
2. PAIN RELIEF: Yoga can ease pain.
3. BETTER BREATHING: Yoga teaches people to take slower, deeper breaths.
4. FLEXIBILITY: Yoga helps to improve flexibility and mobility, increasing range of movement and reducing aches and pains.
5. INCREASED STRENGTH: Yoga asanas (postures) use every muscle in the body, helping to increase strength literally from head to toe.
6. WEIGHT MANAGEMENT: Yoga (even less vigorous styles) can aid weight control efforts by reducing the cortisol levels as well as by burning excess calories and reducing stress.
7. IMPROVED CIRCULATION: Yoga helps to improve circulation and, as a result of various poses, more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body’s cells.
8. CARDIOVASCULAR CONDITIONING: Even gentle yoga practice can provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate, increasing endurance and improving oxygen uptake during exercise.
9. FOCUS ON THE PRESENT: Yoga helps us to focus on the present, to become more aware and to help create mind body health.
10. INNER PEACE: The meditative aspects of yoga help many to reach a deeper, more spiritual and more satisfying place in their lives.

To celebrate national yoga month, not only am I practicing more yoga at home and in my gym, but I have volunteered as a teaching assistant for a kid's yoga class.  I learned about a local organization called YoKid. Yokid is an affiliate of The George Washington University School of Public Health.  Yokid provides yoga classes to children to foster self-awareness and to help children realize their full potential, mentally and physically. Yokid has found that children who take yoga classes are less angry, more relaxed and show improvements in coordination.  I started assisting in my first class last week. I help with a class of 3-6 yrs olds every Thursday afternoon.  I will admit to not really knowing what I was signing myself up for. At first I thought it would be fun and I would get to hang out with kids and be crazy for an hour but as my first class came closer, I realized I had no idea how to teach kids yoga or how to make them even interested in yoga concepts. Luckily I have the leadership of a seasoned teacher and I have been able to watch her capture the kid's attention and make yoga relative to their lives.  At the beginning of each class we focus on breathing. Quick, rapid breaths and slow, deep breaths. The kids love the movements of their arms and love the opportunity to just let loose.  It is also fun to move through different yoga poses with them because so many yoga  movements mimic animals. Downward Dog. Cat-Cow. Cobra.  When was the last time you did cat-cow and let out a little moooooo or meow..... Try it, it will surely put a smile on your face. 

I have only had two classes, but have learned so much.  The class is small but every single student has their own personality. There is the wild child that likes to roll up in their mat or run laps around the room, there is the silent, motionless child that isn't really sure about all this moving and would rather just sit and watch, there is the talking child that has something to say about every pose, and there is the bored child that thinks yoga is pretty dang boring and is ready to move on.  All these different personalities make for an interesting and challenging class. Each class is different and I learn more and more about my students each week.

One of the things we do at the end of each class is lie on our mats, close our eyes and picture the perfect place. The students are told that their place could be anywhere with anything. Ice cream, swimming pools, toys, your family, your best friend...whatever you want.  As we talk them through this visualization you see their faces light up and little smiles start to peek through.  This is my favorite part of class and what keeps me coming back each week.

Happy National Yoga Month to you!

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