Written by Cindi Lockhart – Weight Loss Coaching Program Manager
Yoga originated in India with its name literally meaning to “yoke” or unite, join, or attach. It is an all-encompassing, physical, mental, and spiritual in discipline. Knowing this, many Americans are scared to try it. Sure, there are some religious-based yoga disciplines offered but the majority of what you will engage in here in the States (especially at Life Time Fitness) is Westernized without religious connection.
So why should we try it? Think about your life for a moment. Our culture is very good at carrying out daily activities (home, work, social, etc) at a light-speed, pedal to the medal pace. If we slow down, we are called lazy! And who has time to slow down today? Living life at this speed is stimulating to our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), which stimulates our adrenal glands to produce cortisol (our stress hormone). Cortisol, when produced in excess, can disrupt many hormonal systems from functioning optimally such as our thyroid gland (needed for energy production & metabolism), digestive tract, sex hormones, insulin regulation, and cognitive functioning just to name a few.
Cortisol is catabolic. It burns muscle to fuel our bodies to deal with our stressors and stores fat on our body, specifically around our midsection. It can also disrupt our sleep and ability to adequately recover overnight, as well as suppress our immunity, increasing our risk for colds, infections, and chronic disease. One hundred percent of Americans are under stress, whether they know it or not. Many stressors are hidden and/or ignored and our bodies cannot differentiate between known or hidden stressors, which we have found out how damaging that can be on our physical and mental health.
Many Americans use exercise to relieve stress, however that alone can cause more physical stress on the body. If it’s done too long, too intense, or too frequent for your body you can produce more cortisol and inflammation in your body. Yoga, on the other hand, stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which helps our body relax and lower stress hormones. This alone allows us to rest and recover, and if done regularly, can help reverse many of the conditions mentioned above.
I have had many a Type A client that I have strongly encouraged to engage in gentle or restorative yoga at least one to two times a week and it oftentimes increases their stress levels more. It can be hard to relax, breath deep, stretch your muscles, and tune into your body when you have been so used to running from start to finish of your day. So, how do you start?
Check out the Yoga class schedule at your health club or check into local Yoga studios. Most classes in health clubs are free and Yoga studios often allow one free class to try it out. There are many options to choose from – gentle, beginner, vinyasa (flowing movements), restorative (hold poses for longer times), fitness (even with weights), hot (in heated studios to warm muscles), etc. Try a variety to determine what form you like best as well as which instructor fits your needs best.
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.