“I’m not flexible enough to do yoga,” is just one of the many reasons why most people never even give yoga a try.

Here’s a truth to blow your mind: the actual poses of yoga are only one out of eight “limbs” or pillars of yoga. The others are practices of self-restraint, self-observance, breath, detachment, focused concentration, meditation and spiritual connection.

So, no, you don’t have to be able to touch your toes to do yoga; however, you do need to be open to practicing kindness, nonviolence, letting go and moderation.

The highest reported benefit of yoga is the overall mindfulness and inner peace it provokes. During the physical practice of yoga, many teachers instruct on the breath and lengthening the exhales of the class to induce a calmer nervous system state.

As your heart rate goes up, your teacher may gently remind you to breathe. During class you can expect to also hear physical body cues to enhance your mind-body connection while building strength and resilience in your body and mind.

Imagine being in class and the teacher guides you into a physical posture such as Crescent Lunge: a traditional lunge with your back leg straight, up high on your back toes with your arms overhead. Now imagine, as your muscles are shaking and your quads are burning, the teacher asks you to exhale and soften your face…you may find yourself angry, “Don’t tell me what to do!” or relieved, “Ah! There goes my tension” or annoyed, “How long are we going to be here for?” And the only question to ask yourself in that moment is, when have I felt this way before? Your yoga practice mimics life in its twist and turns, ups and downs while teaching you that you are, overall, safe even when irritated and annoyed.

Yoga offers you a preview into your subconscious mind. It allows you to slow down to listen to the chatter in your mind with the intention of releasing all that doesn’t serve you. A regular yoga practice has the ability to slow your thoughts down so you can start to listen to them. The good ones that celebrate you and the bad ones that punish you day after day.

Along with decreasing your negative self-talk, research shows that yoga has been proven to decrease your resting heart rate, blood pressure and reduces time spent in sympathetic activation (aka the stress system/fight or fight). When you spend less time in fight or flight, you’re able to stay fully present and even sleep better. If you struggle with sleep, invite your yoga practice to your bed:

Lay with your feet up the wall or headboard for 5-10-plus minutes while gently resting your eyes. Take one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Inhale for 5 seconds feeling your belly rise first, then your chest, exhale for 6 seconds while feeling your chest fall and then your belly. If you’re having trouble feeling your belly activate, extend your exhale for as long as you can push the air out…keep pushing…THAT’S your diaphragm! Take your hand there and breathe into it! Remember, this is a practice!

The best part? There’s no “right” way to do yoga!

What your yoga could look like:

Sitting quietly for 5 minutes focusing on one object (hold it in your hands or gently gaze at it!)

Walking quietly (no music!) while checking in with all five senses periodically throughout the walk

Taking a power, yin, or restorative yoga class

Focusing on inhaling for 5 seconds, breathing in through your belly, into your ribs and then your chest followed by a longer 6 second exhale out your chest — ribs — belly. Repeat for a certain amount of time or cycles of breath

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced student, yoga is for everybody. And now, with the annual International Day of Yoga coming on June 21, I hope to see you on your mat!

Gabby DeLorenze is a Yoga and Meditation instructor at Privé-Swiss Fitness, an award-winning, boutique fitness studio, located at 1587 Boston Post Road, Westbrook, 757 Boston Post Road, Madison and 57 Main Street, Ivoryton; phone: 860-391-8735; website: www.priveswissfitness.com.

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