Thanks to my friend and editor, Amanda Crabtree, I have become a huge fan of “Duck Dynasty.” Recently I was watching back episodes and came across one where Willie was trying to get in shape to attend his high school reunion. His wife persuaded him to accompany her to yoga class. Decked out in camo tights, Willie initially scoffed at yoga being exercise but almost had to be carried out by Uncle Si and the gang after finishing. I, too, had the same ideas about the practice until I started doing it. Now the more “veteran” and enlightened Kathy Hansen has embraced the practice of yoga. I have been doing yoga for over a year now, utilizing the P90 X version of the practice. It is a physical, tough, intense, sweat-producing kind of workout.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “union,” in this case union of the body and the mind. (I admit this was the first barrier for me as my mind and body haven’t been in the same church, let alone the same pew, for many years.). It is a form of exercise that dates back thousands of years and its practice has become very mainstream. The increasing popularity of yoga can easily be explained by anyone who practices it. Yoga is a fitness discipline offering many benefits, including emotional wellness, stress reduction, increased flexibility, balance and postural alignment and enhancement of the immune system. The core of yoga is to develop correct and relaxed breathing patterns. Experts believe that developing these breathing patterns can greatly reduce stress and anxiety in daily life, thus improving health.
There are several different types of yoga, but the one most popular in the United States is Hatha . Hatha Yoga consists of 84 postures (Asanas) and variations of each that were created to promote strength and flexibility. Hatha classes are typically anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes long and emphasize slow, regulated breathing, gently-held stretches and positions and meditation. To quote Uncle Si, “If you want to float like a butterfly and sting like a flea, try you some yoga!”
— Equipment: A mat, comfortable workout attire, and bare feet are all one needs to participate in yoga. Mats are provided at some facilities but can be purchased at Wal-Mart for around $7 to $8. An additional helpful piece of equipment is a yoga block. This is used to help those of us less flexible to get the most out of a yoga pose. Blocks run about the same price as a mat, however, in a pinch, I have found a new role of toilet paper can work as well.
— Space: The neat thing about Yoga is that you exercise in a fairly small space. Most Asanas (poses) are done in one spot so any room in the house will work. Yoga studios are set up to accommodate multiple participants while providing for the personal space you need to move.
— Ambiance: Yoga works best in a quiet and dimly-lit space or even in the great outdoors. Quiet is better or with some relaxing music playing in the background. Scented candles are great as well.
— Typical format: While all classes differ by instructor, whether virtual or otherwise, most classes begin with students in a standing position, eyes closed and performing long deep breaths. Once the breathing exercises are completed, you move into the working Asanas. Depending on instructor or type of DVD, these can be very physical and help build strength as well as flexibility. The workout typically ends with balance postures and a cool down.
What should I look for in an instructor? A yoga instructor should be certified. The North Carolina School of Yoga offers advance and beginner certifications. DVD’s are plentiful and available at all levels. Make sure you choose a beginner one first and work your way up to the tougher routines.
Yoga can benefit people of all ages and abilities. In this stressed-to-the-max, hurry-up world, it can give us the tools to help cope. Find a DVD or sign up for a class.
Kathy Hansen has more than 21 years of experience in the health and fitness field and cannot wait for the new “Duck Dynasty” episodes. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.