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Fit Fridays with Rosalyn R. Ross: 5 reasons to start yoga now

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In the run-up to their first ever Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks revealed the secret ingredient of their winning recipe.

Each player was required to meditate add do yoga.

Having Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch on the team certainly helped too. Still, head coach Pete Carroll wanted to test out a theory about the mind/body connection and its importance to training and game preparation.

“I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?” he told ESPN.

You don’t have to be a millionaire athlete, however, to realize the benefits of yoga. The Mayo Clinic website highlights stress reduction, improved overall fitness and management of chronic conditions as health benefits of yoga. It was stress that brought me to the yoga mat 11 years ago. From my very first class, I knew I was on to something that would do my body a world of good.

Here are five reasons you shouldn’t put off starting a yoga routine any longer:

  1. Despite the fact that you’ve been breathing since the day you were born, you’ve probably been doing it wrong. The truth of the matter is that we spend a lot of time holding our breath. We suck in our bellies to take photos. When we are tense or worried we tighten our abdomens. Our breath becomes short and spotty when we get angry or anticipate danger. We need the full range of motion as the belly expands and inflates with each inhalation and releases, drawing toward the spine with each exhalation for our health’s sake. That simple action massages your organs and promotes good digestion. Additionally, through meditation, you can develop an awareness of the breath that keeps you in the present moment and relieves anxiety.
  2. The future you needs yoga even though you don’t know it yet. Stretching the body through yoga movement and poses helps to elongate tight muscles, improve balance and to create more flexibility in the body. These benefits become even more valuable as we age, allowing us to be mobile and active at a time when slowing down could cost us our independence.
  3. It ain’t all flowers. I know you’ve seen the ads. They’re all the same really. A beautiful woman, with a perfect ponytail, wearing a colorful tank top and tights combo looking super peaceful in a cross-legged position with her eyes closed and her hands in “prayer position” at her heart. What the ads don’t tell you is that while most classes begin and end that way, what happens in between is decidedly more active. The fact is that class styles can range from extra gentle to rigorous. Wherever the class of your choice falls on that spectrum though, you can be sure your muscles will get a nice workout.
  4. Your ego could use a break. After all, much of who we are outside of yoga class tends to show up on the mat. It won’t be long before we become frustrated with a pose, irritated by a teacher who hasn’t seemed to notice our “perfect” alignment or envious of the classmate next to us who seems to curl into a pretzel so effortlessly. When these things happen in class you’ll have no choice but to get over yourself, draw your attention inward and forget about how things look for a change.
  5. You’ll be less of a scatterbrain. Our lives are never-ending to-do lists. For most of us, every moment is spent planning what we should be doing in the next. The intense physicality of a yoga practice along with the breath work requires concentration that allows you to disengage from a busy mind as you focus on your body. This translates to a mental calmness and body awareness that has many benefits off the mat as well. This awareness also helps with alignment and posture which can relieve pain and promote greater self confidence.

If you choose to accept this mission, do your research. Find a good class for beginners with an emphasis on alignment. Unroll your mat and breathe.

Here’s to a healthier you,
Rosalyn

Rosalyn R. Ross is a yoga instructor and media professional based in Memphis, Tennessee. In addition to her group yoga classes, Rosalyn also works one-on-one with athletes seeking to expand their practice of yoga. She currently works with the University of Memphis men’s basketball team and is a sought after freelance sports journalist specializing in print and radio.

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Twitter: @R_Trinity