Yoga, currently practiced by 15-million Americans, has also become a multi-billion dollar business. At its roots, yoga is a tool to help the body become more cleansed and balanced by physical asana, or poses, as well as techniques for breathing and meditation, mental focus, clarity and well being. With all the choices out there in yoga – celebrity teachers, expensive yoga mats, and clothes, many types of yoga and approaches to yoga, where does a novice turn to find out more about yoga in a way that is helpful for their own needs?
A gem of a teacher may be found as close as your nearest YMCA, gym, or place of work. With yoga being offered in so many environments, the quality of the teacher is what counts most. An experienced teacher can give you guidelines for your stage of life and unique conditions. Yoga can be used for children, pregnancy, for weight loss, pain and anxiety relief, and to ease a woman through menopause. A larger class is not always where you learn the most, or get the most attention, so trust your intuition when you check out a class. Feel free to ask the teacher questions about their training and background. Private sessions are an option, too, if you have it in your budget; a sure way to get a personalized practice that is right for you.
Many women are looking for ways to stay healthy and maintain the proper weight or lose weight. Yoga, if practiced three times a week, has been proven to help in weight loss. Along with the physical aspect of overeating, yoga can also help the mind and emotions come into balance, a great help for emotional eaters. Women with eating disorders may benefit from gentler forms of yoga, especially in learning breathing techniques that help them deal with the emotional issues attached to their condition.
Many young women are enjoying the work out approach of popular yoga forms like Vinyasa (flow) and Ashtanga (originally developed in India for young boys!), as are middle aged women wishing to maintain youthful energy. The gentler forms of yoga, such as hatha or restorative, are just as good a way to get the body stretched and toned and feeling great. Iyengar is a form of yoga that emphasizes proper alignment, which can prevent injuries or help deal with current ones. Kundalini Yoga emphasizes the breath and inner work, feeling the relationship of your energies from within.
When a woman becomes pregnant, she can look for prenatal yoga classes. These classes offer modifications for poses, as well as mental practices and attitudes that can help the woman through the pregnancy and birthing process. Laying on the belly, deep twists and intense rapid breath are not recommended during this time. Gentle soothing stretches feel good for the mom-to-be and for the baby swimming in the belly. Once baby is born, there are mommy and me classes and children can be introduced to yoga at an early age. Women’s joints loosen in preparation for birthing so this is important to realize. Women in preganancy often feel better resting on their side instead of their back.
As a woman ages her yoga practice may have progressed from the earlier stages of her life so that she has a good foundation to build on. Yet she may find changes in her body affect her practice. Yoga can help the symptoms of menopause and it is a perfectly good time to start yoga – it is never too late! If you are in good physical condition, easing into yoga practice may be a breeze. If you have not exercised much, look for a beginner’s class. (Yoga can even be done in a chair if necessary).
Don’t be intimidated by yoga as a young person’s exercise. It can be practiced at any age, providing you take the time to learn. There are also books and DVDS available. The Internet is a great tool for researching anything, including yoga. In menopause, women with hot flashes may notice the warming poses affecting them – backbends and inversions – but it is not a reason to avoid them altogether. Do them for shorter periods of time if you like. The breathing practices can ease the anxiety that sometimes accompanies menopause (or any other stage of life for that matter).
Changes may occur that you have to work and live with. In my practice, my shoulders shifted almost overnight, losing their flexibility in deep extensions that I had previously found easy. As at any phase of life, things like frozen shoulders are not a reason to stop practicing. Listening to the messages of your body, especially pain when pushing, is all that is required – and putting your ego out the door. Yoga is not meant to be competetive.
Yoga boosts the immune system and strengthens the nerves, making it a helpful antidote to stress. The increased circulation, oxygenation, and reversing the effects of gravity, are all bonuses for a woman’s inner beauty, allowing her to radiate on the outside what yoga is doing for her on the inside – through any stage of life.
About the Expert:
Donna Amrita Davidge owns and operates www.sewallhouse.com, a small personalized yoga retreat in Maine, since 1997, and also maintains a teaching practice in New York City in the winter months. Teaching yoga since 1985, she is 500 Hour E-RYT with Yoga Alliance as well as a certified Kundalini Yoga instructor with 3HO. Donna (Amrita) has two dvds for home practice and has written articles for Fityoga, Medical Tourism, and is the yoga columnist for Inner Tapestry, a New England publication. Sewall House has been featured in Instyle, Travel & Leisure, Yoga Journal, Shape, and other publications.