Ahh, summertime – the perfect time for visits to the local pool, cookouts, flip-flops, camping trips … and yoga. Yoga? You may think of yoga as a group of snobbish, new-age, chanting women and bearded men who judge you if you can’t hold a perfect headstand for 5 minutes or more.
Well hold onto your rubber mats; it’s not like that at all! Yoga has many benefits, and trust me – you do NOT have to be an expert (or even that good) to reap them.
Yoga, first and foremost, asks you to focus on your breath. You’ll practice slowing down your breathing to work through stresses and challenges. Once you can learn how to do this in a tough pose, you’ll be able to channel and apply it to everyday stresses in your life. Other benefits of yoga are increased flexibility, strength training (nothing bulky here, think long and lean muscles!), and relaxation.
Bikram yoga (or hot yoga) is currently a popular style of yoga practice. The benefits are enticing; the heat can loosen you up and allow you to find more flexibility in your poses, and you can burn more calories in the same amount of time due to the sauna-like conditions. There are many studios in Northeast Wisconsin that provide Bikram yoga options, so look on the website of your local yoga studio to find a class if you’re interested in trying it out.
For beginners, though, the best place to start is the free outdoor yoga classes that are going on all summer. Because it’s hot outside, you get a taste of what doing yoga in the heat is like, and you have the added benefit of being able to gaze at the lovely clouds and scenery while you open your heart to the sky in your backbend poses.
There are several great and FREE options for outdoor yoga classes, and there’s probably one near you:
Beginners: Mondays from 10-11:30 a.m. all summer
Intermediates: Mondays from 8-9:30 a.m. all summer
Thursdays from 6-7 p.m. all summer
Tuesdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. all summer
Make a promise to yourself, your mind and your body to try something new this summer and try an outdoor yoga class. These classes are filled with people of all ages and skill levels. And men, don’t be afraid to drop in! While yoga has typically been seen as a female-oriented activity in the past, the attendance is starting to even out. If you have injuries, are pregnant, or have any other disability, make sure to let the instructor know beforehand, and he/she will most likely be able to work around it by providing you with modifications to the poses that might cause discomfort.
The summer will go by quickly (as it always does) so be sure to “get out and zen out” before we’re all sequestered back inside for a long, cold winter.