Hot Yoga: Is It For You?

Full disclosure: I have been a devoted hot yogi for some years, so that will probably filter the overall tone of this article. If you already despise hot yoga and are looking for reasons why it’s the worst, this won’t be the article for you. Hot yoga has made my life better in ways that reach beyond studio asana. BUT – there have been stages of my life when it has not been the best for my body, and there are certain people whose bodies it will not ever serve. Hot yoga can be incredibly beneficial, but it can also be dangerous. I’d like to take a quick look at some of the pros/cons of hot yoga and how we can make sure to use our practice to its best advantage.

Pro: Detoxification

Most forms of yoga have a wonderful detox effect due to the compression of vital organs and lymphatic stimulation. Combine that with a hot, humid room and you get a sweat unlike any other workout. What does all that sweat release with it?  Toxins. Moreover, as you progress in your practice you’ll find that hydrating before and after is crucial. More water overall = more urination = even more toxic elimination. I’ve suffered from acne for most of my life, but a regular hot yoga practice keeps my skin clearer than any topical  cream I’ve tried.

Pro: Strength and Flexibility

Yet again, most forms of yoga have a staggeringly positive effect on the body’s flexibility and strength. However, hot yoga in particular succeeds with the flexibility portion. According to Dr. Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise, “This is probably the biggest benefit we see… The heat certainly helps the individual warm up the muscles, joints and ligaments so that you’ll be more effective with any type of flexibility or stretching type exercises. Over time, you should see improvements in flexibility.” As for my personal observations? All I can say is that it takes a lot longer to make full hanumanasana happen in a 75-degree room than a 105-degree one.

Pro: Stress Management

Practicing in extreme heat typically sets off what we usually refer to as the “fight or flight” instinct. Continuing to practice even while your body’s stress signals are flaring trains you to use your breath and calm the response. This training, if we are mindful of it, can carry through to our everyday life and our dealings with anxiety, anger, or any other emotion that would typically take over when we are put into a stressful situation.

Con: Dehydration

This one may seem like an obvious con, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to become dehydrated if you’re not watching your water intake SUPER carefully. Since drinking water during practice can actually hinder your concentration and make the sequence even more difficult, it is of the utmost importance that you are drinking higher than usual amounts of water before and after.

Con: Dizziness/Passing Out

It’s totally possible to get used to and even become comfortable in the sweltering humidity of a hot yoga studio, but until your body acclimates it is extremely important that you listen to your body and stop when it is telling you to stop during your practice. If you start to feel dizzy or faint, lie down in child’s pose or savasana.

Con: Overstretching

Since, as we already discussed, our muscles and ligaments are warmer, they are easier to stretch. While this can be a good thing, it can be easier to overstretch and injure yourself if you’re not careful. It’s always important to be mindful of your movements in yoga class, but this can be especially true in a hot yoga class.

You should NOT practice hot yoga if you are pregnant or have high blood pressure, heart disease, or any other contraindications. If you’re unsure, ask your doctor. This practice can be intense, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution. To give yourself the best experience, I recommend eating a light meal at least an hour beforehand; think along the lines of a plant-based protein powder blended with a banana and some greens. You also want to make sure you drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to and after your class, avoid practicing with a hangover (from experience… trust me), and most importantly, listen to your body and don’t push it too far too soon. You and this practice can have a lifetime together – there’s no need to rush!

My Full Moon To Do List

Maybe it seems a bit contrary to compose something as mundane as a to do list in conjunction with an event as energetically meaningful as a full moon, but I’m a Capricorn and lists are kind of what we do. Honestly, I’m taking this down as much for myself as for a public blog, because the full moon is an incredibly powerful time, and I always kick myself the day after when I realize I’ve forgotten to observe this day purposefully! I’m not suggesting you sacrifice any chickens – in fact I actively advise against doing that – but I do know of a few relatively simple ways to harness the ancient energy of the full moon, release things that are holding you back, and manifest a richer life in the month ahead.

1. Think Happy Thoughts

See? I did say these things were simple. Energies and thoughts are multiplied like you wouldn’t believe during the full moon, so your positive vibes during this time are getting a big dose of full moon magic and growing exponentially. Take 5 minutes when you wake up and before you go to bed to reflect on your blessings. Spend time considering the good things the Universe holds in your future, maybe even writing them down. Look in the mirror and go over what you like about yourself. One thing I do not recommend doing is using this time to tell your partner about that thing they do that’s been bugging you for ages – magnified emotions means negativity is magnified too, so stick to the lovey-dovey sh-stuff for now if you can.

2. Meditate

With the extra spiritual energy flowing, meditating with the full moon is a must. I personally notice quite an observable difference in the ease with which I slip into my peaceful, calm “meditation headspace” during this time. As a bonus, many yoga studios and spiritual centers host full moon group meditations, so it can be a wonderful opportunity to get out in your community, meet like-minded people, and combine the powerful energy of a full moon with the powerful energy of a room full of meditating individuals.

3. Sage Burning/Mindful Release

While new moons represent new beginnings, full moons represent completion and celebration – time to release the old to make room for the new! Burning sage has been used for centuries as a means of cleansing and releasing negative or stagnant energies. To perform a sage smudging ritual, simply light your sage bundle and let it burn for a moment before blowing it out and blowing the ember to life. Hold it over a fireproof dish (I use an abalone shell, but your ex-roommate’s old chipped dinner plate works just as well) and use your hand or a feather to waft the smoke all the way around your body from the bottoms of your feet over the top of your head. Repeat a statement of release that feels right to you – I often use, “I release all that no longer serves me”, but you do you! You can also use the sage smoke to cleanse your mala/crystals before laying them out under the full moon to charge, but more on that later.

4. Cleanse Your Body

By this, I mean something slightly more than “take a shower” and slightly less than “starve yourself with green juices for 7 days”. Cleansing my body is just about doing something with the mindful intention of helping my body physically release some of the toxins from the previous month. Maybe I’ll do an extra long hike or extra hot power yoga class – though many yogis prefer to leave the full moon as a time of rest. Perhaps I’ll take a long, hot detox bath and follow up with a nice, gunk-pulling clay mask (because duh, I’ll take any excuse for a self-care skincare spa day… more on that here). Maybe I’ll even go on a quick, 24-hour raw food/hot tea cleanse, if I’m feeling especially bombastic!

5. Recharge Your Mala

If you don’t use a mala, you can skip this one (but seriously, look into getting a mala for your meditation practice).  Leaving your mala or crystals out in the full moonlight will recharge their energies and amplify once more the quality that initially drew you to them. Simply leave them outside under the full moon overnight and return in the morning. If you live somewhere known for its burglars or its raccoons, consider securing your mala/crystals up high or leaving them in a windowsill that will receive plenty of moonlight.

Your “to do list” for the full moon will change each month, depending on what that moon has held for you. Often you may need less, and sometimes you may even need more in the form of a retreat or a bra-burning bonfire. What you do to mindfully release the negativity of the past during the full moon is not necessarily important, it’s just that you do something that feels right to you. Feel free to use my list as a starting point and use your own intuition to let your practices evolve!

The 5 Things I Put in Every Smoothie, Every Day

Be honest – when was the last time you gave your body all of the plants it needs for optimum daily nutrition? If you’re like the vast majority of us, the answer to that question is probably a little difficult to recall. So, how do we get closer to achieving our ideal veggie and fruit intake? Simple – add a green smoothie to your daily routine! Making it a point to drink a single green smoothie every day is an easy way to pack a TON of amazing plant-based nutrition into one frosty, delicious, easily digestible glassful. I can say with complete honesty that I notice a drastic difference in my overall sense of wellbeing when I fail to follow my daily smoothie routine – which always includes the 5 must-haves below!

1. Beyond The Kale of Duty 

The most mandatory ingredient in any green smoothie is right there in the moniker – the greens! Kale seems to be the choice du jour, but really just about any leafy green will do. Chard, spinach, arugula, mustard greens, romaine… the world is your oyster garden! Just a handful or two of leafy greens each day gets you a powerhouse dose of antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamins A, K, C, & B, iron, magnesium, calciu- you know what, this list could probably continue, but you’ve probably heard most of all this before. Greens = good. Let’s move on.

2. Go Ahead, Maca My Day. 

I know that I’m not even close to the only woman out there who has dealt with a hormonal roller coaster for much of her life, thanks to years of various birth control methods, pregnancies, breastfeeding, and general existence as a walking, talking bundle of estrogen. I was (like many of you are) feeling the symptoms of an endocrine system that was radically out of order! Enter a google search, some magical claims about a plant I’d never heard of, and a quick trip to my neighborhood natural grocer, courtesy of desperation and an over-abundant faith in the internet. Well ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that the internet was right and maca powder rocked my world. Within just a few days of adding a tablespoon of this stuff to my daily green smoothie, I felt more energy, better focus, greater stamina in my workouts/asana practice, and all sorts of other really fun side effects that come with a healthy hormonal balance. This little Peruvian root may sound funny and look humble, but it’s a true superfood with countless physical benefits.

3. You Say Merengue, I Say Moringa

Moringa is the kind of plant that makes it difficult to be taken seriously when telling someone about its benefits, because those benefits are so plentiful that it sounds like they must be embellished. But just bear with me here – the stuff is really that spectacular. Do you like having skin with a glow worthy of J.Lo and bragging about how you never get sick? A serving has 6 times the antioxidant levels contained in goji berries. Need more iron in your diet? Moringa powder contains 32.2% of your daily iron requirement. It’s got 67.4% of your daily recommended vitamin E requirement, 24.7% of your daily calcium requirement, 18.9% of your daily vitamin A requirement, and 13.2% of your daily magnesium requirement. In addition to the skin and immune system benefits already mentioned, this all means more sustained energy, enhanced nutrient absorption, better digestion, stronger bones, and even easier stress management. If the sky falls and I fall totally short of my nutritional goals for the day, a single serving of moringa powder packs enough healthful good stuff to give me peace of mind.

4.  MegaFood Daily Enery Nutrient Booster Powder

You’ve gotten a brief reprieve from my poor puns, because even I can’t make a pun out of the mouthful up there. This (link) is the only brand name that I’m going to throw at you, and I’m not getting paid (seriously, I’m not that important; they have no clue who I am). But I like this stuff a lot, and I do put it in my smoothies every day, so it goes in the blog! This lovely little superfood powder comes in individual serving packets or a larger jar with a small scoop inside, and I keep both around so I have options for home or travel. The “energy” part of the title likely comes primarily from the massive dose of B12 – 563% of your daily recommended requirement! The rest of the body-loving ingredients include beetroot powder, ashwaganda, and green tea. My mood is markedly more elevated and focused after a dose of this in my morning libation, and coffee is usually optional!

5. Once A Chia, Always A Chia

Am I the only one who absolutely cannot hear the word “chia” without also mentally hearing the “ch-ch-ch-chia!” tune? Especially with the knowledge that yes, we are discussing THAT kind of chia! The same chia seed whose little green shoots were used as “fur” sprouting from clay figurines has lately been experiencing a renaissance as a spectacular superfood! I’ve experimented with cutting this one ingredient out from my daily green smoothie, and the immediately observable difference in satiety was staggering! If I drink my smoothie at 8 am, I usually have no problem lasting until lunchtime – but without my serving of chia seeds, I’m ravenous within just a couple hours! I add a heaping tablespoon to my smoothie before blending to reap the benefits of this concentrated source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, antioxidants, and calcium.

While the use of a few foundational superfoods is key in a functional smoothie, the rest of the components should be fun and change constantly! I typically start with a seasonal fruit that sounds tasty, then add a blending liquid (usually water or cashew milk) and as many other nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables as I can find without overpowering the flavor or overflowing my blender bottle. Don’t be afraid to think outside of your comfort zone with the veggies! Bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and zucchini all make vitamin-rich, mildly fresh-tasting additions. I actually took the featured photo above of a particularly rainbow-like spread one morning before I pulverized it all into bright green uniformity.  Experimentation is nothing to be afraid of – if worse comes to worst and your smoothies are truly gag-worthy then you can always just hold your nose and chug (or even just start over… no one’s watching and I won’t tell. Cheers!

 

Self-Care Series: Part Deux

(Psst! If you missed part 1 of the self-care series, you can check it out here!)

Here’s a fun fact you almost definitely already know: the skin is your body’s largest organ. What you may not have heard is that it is also your body’s largest defense against infection! Keeping this defense moist and healthy is essential; when the skin gets dry and irritated, cracks in the skin can occur which can leave your whole body much more vulnerable to infection. Here’s the great thing – caring for your skin can feel really good. This is one of those “you’re probably already doing it” sections of the series. You probably already wash your face, you probably use lotion sometimes, maybe you’ve even been known to give exfoliation a go. But if you’re not enjoying your skin care routine or don’t really do it often enough to fully reap the benefits, it’s time to change it up. Here are some ways that you can really pamper your body’s largest protector that can actually feel like a personal treat instead of a chore.

 

1. Introduce dry brushing to your daily routine. Dry brushing promotes overall circulation, helps eliminate toxins, and exfoliates your skin like crazy. I bought my dry brush off Amazon, and immediately started using it before every shower. To dry brush, you simply drag the bristles over your skin in long, even strokes, always moving toward your heart center. Pass once over your entire body, then shower to rinse away any dead skin. When I say this will exfoliate your skin, I really mean it – I’ve had dry, rough skin for as long as I can remember and I credit dry brushing more than any other part of my routine with finally giving me the smooth, soft skin that even I can’t keep my hands off of.

 

2. Find a skin care routine that you like and use each step, beginning to end, twice a day. Take the time to slowly massage your face with your fingertips as you cleanse and work in your products; facial massage has been shown to relieve tension, increase circulation, and assist better absorption of facial products, all of which help contribute to a clear, youthful, glowing complexion. Each evening, I use a cleanser, a toner, an essence (in the form of rose water), a serum, an eye cream, a night cream, and often some rosehip oil or an acne cream as needed. In the morning, I do the same minus the eye cream and the night cream. Is it a lot? It seemed like it at first, but now I actually look forward to that time each morning and evening – seriously! In the mad dash of our day’s beginning or the exhaustion of our day’s end, it can be difficult to make time for a lengthy routine, but that mad dash and that exhaustion is exactly what makes the time I take to do this routine so important to me.

 

3. Set aside an hour or so each week for a facial mask routine. In the interest of total transparency, I’ll go ahead and tell you that I don’t LOVE my mask day. It’s time-consuming, it’s kind of messy, and my husband can never seem to resist a little giggle at my clay-covered face’s expense. But let’s face it – skin can be finicky, and our daily routines aren’t always enough to keep dryness or breakouts at bay. Speaking of facts to face, my personal diet/beverage consumption isn’t always necessarily in check, and sometimes I can forget to practice what I preach in terms of the regularity of my daily cleansing routine. That’s when I like to take a little spa break for myself and treat my skin to some extra TLC in order to repent for my dermal wrongs. I start with an exfoliator, then move on to a deep pore purge with a clay mask, and if my skin has felt especially clogged or dull, I’ll follow up with a peel off mask. After all this, I have to imagine my skin is feeling a little traumatized, so I cap it all off with a nice, comforting sheet mask and/or a generous slathering of my favorite night cream.

 

4. I’ve saved my favorite for last: take the time for long, warm, totally self-indulgent baths on a regular basis. Baths improve circulation, soothe the sinuses, help stimulate your body’s production of melatonin, moisturize your skin, and are a wonderful way to indulge in some aromatherapy. By the way, when I say indulgent, I mean Indulgent with a capital I; if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, right? Build your own bath as though you were building a romantic evening for a lover. First, candles are an absolute necessity – there’s nothing relaxing about the light in any bathroom I’ve ever seen. Second, put on a favorite playlist that fits your vibe (I’m a little partial to one of mine that’s heavy on the Sade and Nina Simone, but everyone has their chill). Next, add some fun stuff in a scent you love to your bathwater. I tend to go for plain Epsom salts with my own blend of essential oils for muscle soreness, but a nice skin-softening bath bomb or oil can be wonderful as well, and sometimes I’ll even add some fresh or dried flowers if I’m feeling extra fancy. After setting up your perfect scene, it’s time to simply exist within the moment you’ve created for yourself. I like to close my eyes and let my mind drift, but if that sounds too boring (hey, I get it), it can also be nice to take some time for a few chapters of that paperback that’s been sitting on your nightstand. After you’re properly placid, take advantage of all the moisture your skin has absorbed by giving yourself a long, full-body rubdown with a rich lotion or some coconut oil.

 

It can be easy to forget that our skin exists in a constant state of change, with old cells dying and new ones forming. It’s incredibly susceptible to many environmental factors, from pollution and sun damage to diet and dehydration, which makes it incredibly important to show it the love that it deserves. It also contains about 1,000 nerve endings per square inch, which means that it can be one of the most physically enjoyable forms of self-care to practice. Now, go spend some quality time with one of your most hardworking organs and get your glow on!

 

(Author’s note regarding the featured image: part of my personal collection/obsession, with some of the products I mentioned. Only the finest crappy cell phone quality photos for you guys.)

Free Yoga Phoenix: Free-Flow Nights at Mountain Shadows

Because I believe that everyone should and more importantly can make yoga a consistent part of their life, I’m a sucker for a free yoga class. Because I currently live in one of the most beautiful places in the country – with some of the best weather that autumn has to offer – I’m an even bigger sucker for an outdoor yoga class. But you offer me a free, outdoor yoga class presided over by Camelback Mountain at a newly remodeled and oft-discussed resort in Paradise Valley, AZ? Clear my calendar! I had high hopes for the Thursday night “Free-Flow” at Mountain Shadows resort, and though a few things were shaky, will definitely be giving it another shot as soon as possible.

What: a complimentary outdoor yoga class with gorgeous mountain views, with $5 drinks and appetizers at The Living Room for post-savasana socialization

Where: Mountain Shadows. 5445 E. Lincoln Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253. While the class was advertised as being on a large lawn with views of Camelback and Mummy Mountains, our class was held by the pool with a great view of Camelback.

When: Thursday nights at 6:00 pm for the rest of November. Our class started a few minutes late due to some parking issues.

Why: Practicing yoga outdoors with views of nature has been shown to heighten breath awareness (thanks, fresh air!), release endorphins through visual stimulation, build confidence by practicing in a new environment, replenish depleted energy by allowing your body to “recalibrate” in its natural environment, and help calm the “fight or flight” response that prevents so many of us from being fully present in our practice. Plus, its free yoga – when the Universe gives you a gift like free yoga, it may be considered downright rude not to accept. Just saying.

Of note: parking. While the event advertised free and convenient parking at the resort, I have to say that I did not find that to be the case. Evidently, there were simply too many events taking place on the evening I was there, as evidenced by the moving practice space and the fact that we were directed to park in a neighboring lot which turned out to be full. Yogis then had to attempt to find parking along the street and a nearby construction area. When you arrive, drive straight up to the valet and he/she will direct you to wherever you need to go. I recommend arriving 5-10 minutes early, in case you end up having to trek from your car.

In summary… While the view and the waterfall sounds at the pool were lovely, I was bit disappointed in the decision to move the practice from the grassy lawn I had seen in photos. For one thing, we were practicing on concrete, and I had brought my thinnest mat in anticipation of a practice on grass. For another, we were right outside the patio of one of the resort’s restaurants, which made for a practice with a bit more background discussion than I typically prefer. Honestly, I just love a practice with a more direct connection to the earth, so I was a little let down when I discovered that wasn’t what I was getting. That coupled with the lack of parking for yogis (and subsequent late class start to allow for the extra headache time) left me feeling a bit like the yoga class was in the backseat compared to everything else the resort had going on – though I suppose that actually was the case, considering the “free” price tag! Overall, I would definitely visit this practice again to flow on the grass, but the concrete yoga experience probably isn’t for me.

7 Reasons Why Everyone (Yes, Everyone) Should Practice Yoga

When you think of yoga, what comes to mind? A serene monk in the Himalayas chanting mantras on one toe, having given up all of his worldly possessions? An impossibly slender Instagram model clad in a bikini contorting herself into a hazardous-looking pretzel on a Bahamian beach? Or a healthier, more peaceful, better version of yourself? Yoga can mean each of these things. By now you’ve probably heard from at least once person that you should try practicing yoga, and I’m here to emphatically back up that advice with the why behind it.

 

 1. It’s good for your mental health

Though many early studies regarding the impact of yoga on mental health were poorly managed and small, many more recent studies have centered around randomized controlled trials, which is considered to be the “most rigorous standard for proving efficacy”. The results of these studies are finally leading science to back up what yogis have known for centuries – that those who practice yoga experience a reduction in depression, anxiety, and a multitude of other mental health issues. One likely reason behind this is that yoga has a profound effect on the endocrine system via the reduction of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, as well as the increase of “feel-good” hormones like serotonin and melatonin. A group of Vietnam veterans experiencing PTSD in Australia were subjected to a randomized controlled study regarding the effects of a yoga and breathing program. The veterans were all on at least one antidepressant and were all daily drinkers. One group practiced yoga, breathing techniques, and meditation each day for six weeks, while the control group lived their lives as usual. After six weeks, the group that had been practicing yoga and breathing dropped their CAPS (Clinician Administered PTSD Scale) scores from an average of 57 (moderate to severe symptoms) to 42 (mild to moderate) – and these results persisted at a 6-month follow-up. The control group showed no improvement. Considering the recent estimate that 20% of veterans come home from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan experiencing symptoms of PTSD, these results and the idea that there could be assistance outside of (and in addition to) medication is incredibly heartening.

 

2. It’s an excellent way to keep physically fit

Look, it’s completely understandable that some are skeptical of yoga as a viable means of building muscle and shedding fat. Many are trained to believe that unless a workout leaves us red-faced and struggling for breath, it must not be effective. But the secret is getting out – yoga’s benefits as a workout are on par with (and in some cases greater than) what immediately comes to mind for many of us when we think of a “good workout”. A study from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that, over the course of four years, a group of middle-aged adults who practiced yoga at least once a week gained three fewer pounds than a group who practiced other forms of exercise. The same study found that overweight adults who began practicing yoga lost five pounds, while a group who did not practice gained thirteen pounds; those results remained true even when accounting for differences in eating habits. Though most forms of yoga aren’t going to give you the most efficient calorie-burning workout of all time, it’s difficult to find another form of exercise that is so effective at working so many different muscle groups at once, while also normalizing the hormone levels that are responsible for how our body retains and carries weight.

 

3You’ll sleep better

A study by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that after 8 weeks of a regular yoga practice, sufferers of both primary and secondary insomnia experienced marked improvements to sleep efficiency, total sleep time, total wake time, sleep onset latency, and wake time after sleep onset. Another study of 410 cancer survivors found a link between a regular yoga practice and reduced fatigue, reduced use of sleep medication, and an overall sense of increased quality of life. So the research makes it clear that yoga helps you sleep better, but how is that possible? For reason number one, let’s circle back to this blog’s reason number one – it reduces stress and anxiety. Number two, many yoga poses also work directly with the nervous system to help it decrease its activity at crucial times. And number three, since yoga in the most basic sense is breathing, a regular practice over time can train your body’s breathing to decrease snoring/hitched breathing and increase oxygen levels, contributing to a much more peaceful night of sleep overall.

 

4. You’ll be less at risk for heart disease

Though the American Heart Association does not count yoga towards the 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week that they recommend for optimum heart health, they do acknowledge it as a means of helping prevent or even reversing existing heart disease. By lowering blood pressure, decreasing cholesterol levels, and decreasing stress, yoga helps keep your cardiovascular system in tip-top working order.

 

5It increases balance and reduces fear of falling

For younger readers, it may or may not have crossed your mind that balance and a fear of falling is a very real issue for many of our population, especially seniors. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have determined that 11 different studies show a regular yoga practice increases balance and reduces fear of falling. Combined with its relatively low-impact nature and its ability to be adjusted to fit the practitioners’ needs, the benefits of yoga to seniors can hardly be overstated.

 

6. It can help prevent and heal injuries

It stands to reason that having better balance and flexibility would help prevent many common injuries such as sprains, pulls, and broken bones. What may be more surprising is that trials seem to indicate that yoga can even be used to accelerate healing for injuries, wounds, and even after major operations. One randomized control trial looked at two groups of 15 patients with relatively simple “long bone” fractures. Both groups received standard medical treatment for their fractures, but one group practiced yoga and visualization during two 30 minute sessions per day, while the control group did not. After 21 days, doctors compared the two groups’ healing based on an assessment of pain, swelling, and bone density – in every case, the group that had practiced yoga daily fared dramatically better. Another randomized control trial focused on a group of women with stage II and stage III operable breast cancer pre- and post-operatively. One group practiced yoga with regulated nostril breathing and relaxation techniques, while the control group received social support counseling sessions and rehabilitative shoulder exercises. Respective treatments were given at the hospital beginning post-op and continuing for 30 minutes per day for 3 weeks after the women were discharged. When doctors looked at factors like duration of hospital stay post-op, time to drain removal, time to suture removal, and post-op systemic inflammation, it was clear that the yoga group had fared much better, sometimes reaching these milestones in half the time it took the control group.

 

7. You’ll probably get sick less

Feel like you’re getting sick all the time? Yep, there’s yoga for that! If you look back at the past few times you caught a bug, there’s a good chance that they occurred when you were burning the candle at both ends. More and more, science seems to support the idea that the fatigue, hormonal imbalance, and poor sleep caused by high stress levels can compromise the immune system; asana practice provides a manageable, natural way to support it daily. It helps lower stress hormones that can trigger illness, conditions the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulates the lymphatic system to eliminate toxins, and brings a better flow of oxygenated blood to each organ, ensuring their peak performance. Certain poses can even be used to target the systems that need help the most, with poses that specifically support the thyroid, thymus, sinuses, and many other areas.

 

Yoga can mean absolutely anything you need it to mean. It can be a fast and vigorous hatha, it can be a slow, deep stretch, it can be deep breaths while lying comfortably on your back. After any amount of time away, your mat is always waiting. It will never judge you for any time away or physical limitation. You can devote as much or as little time to it as you have, but I promise*, after just a few weeks of learning how incredible you can feel, you will catch yourself finding more and more time.
*This claim is unsubstantiated-ish and can be proven only through the experiment of Life