“Ohm…shanti…ohm…shanti…”

You probably think those of use who practice yoga sitting around in our yoga pants, watch incense waft heavenward, and pray to weird Eastern deities.

Yeah, no. That’s not how yoga works. (Although, as a sad/funny side note, my local ultra right-wing Catholic bishop tried to tell women practicing yoga was a grave sin.)

I took my first yoga class in my twenties, and I was hooked right away. I loved being able to shut my loud brain off for 75 minutes at a time. I was amazed I could actually do some of the poses as well as or better than my classmates, like the bridge pose and sitting in a butterfly pose with my knees flat on the floor. And when I could do things I had never done before, such as a handstand, I knew yoga would always be a part of my life.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro, an intermediate yogi like me, or a total newbie, I hope you will consider doing yoga. Even though we are curvier women, yoga offers so many benefits, they simply cannot be denied:

  1. Improved respiration. A lot of yoga centers on breathing. You focus on different parts of your body receiving oxygen. The deeper you breathe and the more you focus on it, the more it improves your overall breathing.
  1. Increased flexibility. I am amazed at how much more flexible I was after a few months of yoga class. Postures I had to skip in the first few classes were ones I could actually do! And it was fun to try to recreate those movements at home.
  1. Perfects your posture. While Pilates are better for core work, yoga also focuses a lot on your core and tucking your belly button into your spine. Yoga stretches make you longer, leaner, and your posture will naturally follow suit.
  1. Increases blood flow. Believe me, when your head is below your heart – like in downward dog – the blood flows to your head. And you start to feel arteries, veins, and capillaries you don’t even know you had!
  1. Inspires a healthy lifestyle. I don’t know about you, but I am less likely to grab fast food on the way home from yoga class. Somehow my body craves better food, and I make better choices. I drink more water, less alcohol, and I actually want to eat stuff that’s good for me.
  1. Fights depression. Not only does yoga center you and help you focus on your breathing, but your endorphins kick in. I seem to feel particularly happier after a round of hot yoga.
  1. Improves your balance. Yeah, I wobble and fall when I’m trying to balance on one leg. So what? Over the weeks, my balance improves. So not only can I stand on one leg, but I can stand on one bent leg!
  1. Fosters deeper sleep. It is connected to the focus on breathing and being centered, but I always slept like a rock after yoga practice. The calming breathing and soothing feeling of well-being lend themselves so well to a good night’s sleep!
  1. Yoga is a sport you definitely see improvement in. As I mentioned, literally everyone improves after a few weeks in yoga class. I dare you to try it out for a month. Tell me you don’t see marked improvement.
  1. Centers you. After a long, tiring session, it feels so good to lay there in corpse pose, breathing, and connecting with the universe. That is a sense of peace and tranquility I have never found in any church. Ever.

So if you want to practice yoga for increased flexibility, as a way to ease symptoms of depression, or you are looking to take up a new sport, yoga is simply amazing. Give it a try at your local adult education classes or see if a local yoga studio offers free introductory classes. You might get hooked!

Have you ever done yoga? What were the results?