Monday, October 15, 2012

Guest Post from Carolyn @ Full-On Fit!

I recently got an email from the lovely Carolyn asking if I would be interested in having a guest blogger. I said yes, because a) networky stuff is one of my favorite aspects of blogging, and b) her post is about yoga, and we all know I'm hella about yoga. Check out Carolyn's blog Full-On Fit to follow her "journey to find physical, mental and emotional health."

Without further ado, here's Carolyn's post!

A Quest for the Perfect Exercise: How Yoga Enlightened Me

I love to exercise, but nothing had ever made me feel the way I felt when I discovered yoga. The initial experience was so new and exciting that I'll never forget about it for as long as I live. Yeah, it was that memorable. If you've been on the search for an all-encompassing exercise that stimulates mind, body, and soul, listen to how I got involved in this life-changing art.

First, here's a little background on me. I've always been a fairly active and athletic person. My favorite ways to exercise included kickboxing classes and spinning. Classes are great because you are in an environment conducive to working out. You work alongside people just like you who are also trying to find an exciting way to get in shape. Kickboxing is fairly self-explanatory--you practice punch and kick combinations with the guidance of an instructor either in the air or on a heavy bag. Spinning refers to an instructor-led stationary cycling class where music and verbal encouragement are the key forms of motivation to work hard and get fit. While both workout styles offered different aspects that I really enjoyed, I was always interested in trying yoga one day.

So why did I decide to try yoga? I'd been doing plenty of research on it out of pure curiosity and believed that it would offer me more health benefits than both the kickboxing and the spinning. I learned that yoga aided with improvements in three major areas: the immune system, muscle tone, and posture.

Immune System
The breathing aspects of yoga work to strengthen the immune system in a number of ways. The focus on breathing provides the body with proper oxygen for exercise and daily function, while exhalation detoxifies your lungs. Yoga also helps to create a balance in hormone release, decreases the major illness causes of stress and anxiety, and aids in ridding harmful microbes from the body when acupressure points are stimulated.

Muscle Tone
Yoga involves many holds, twists, and bends that all require the muscles to flex and release. Some of these positions force the arms and legs to support the bodyweight for seconds or minutes at a time. All of these movements stimulate muscle growth and aid in burning fat and increasing definition.  Dr. Glen Axelrod of the Center for Orthopedic & Spine Care even claims, “Many professional athletic teams use yoga as an integral part of their training.”

Improved posture comes with an increase in muscle mass and greater flexibility that results from practicing all the different holds. Poor posture inhibits bloodflow and the proper functioning of organs leading to disease.

After plenty of Web-surfing and article reading, I jumped at the chance to take a yoga class with a friend named Alyssa. Alyssa was already a practitioner of yoga--even though it had only been six months since she began. Regardless, she was far more experienced than I and taught me more than I could've ever have imagined in such a short amount of time. My friend helped me pick out the proper clothing and yoga mat, and she offered many tips that came in very handy during the class. I even learned that shoes weren't required!

After my first session, I was hooked. It was an experience like no other. I was nervous at first since I was a newbie, but everybody was in their own little universe when I entered the room. You could hear the drop of a needle--that's how silent it was. We started with simple breathing, then moved on to basic poses, called asanas, including the mountain and warrior. Even though the poses were difficult and felt awkward at first, I quickly got used to them and had a blast during my first session. I felt sore and out of breath at the end of class, but it was in a very good way. Alyssa was there to support me with smiles and eye contact the whole time.

Since that initial yoga class, I've taken several more and practice at home as well. I already feel stronger, more flexible, more energized, and healthier in general. Yoga is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I'll definitely continue to learn and improve my technique from now on.

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