On a blistery day in January, I walked into Walmart to purchase a yoga mat and blocks. I was starting my first yoga class at forty-seven years old. I had just started a new job, and a Thursday yoga class was offered at my work. A colleague mentioned the class, and I thought, “Sure, I’ll give it a try.” Contemplating an upcoming milestone age, I was looking for a way to gain some muscle tone.
I was told I would need a mat, blocks, and a strap. I understood the yoga mat, but what the heck were blocks, and what do toys have to do with yoga? And a strap? Well that sounded downright dangerous. In any event, not knowing if I would even like yoga, I bought the cheapest mat and blocks Walmart had to offer, and opted out of the strap.
Eighteen months later, I am transformed. Yoga has done more for my body and mind than I ever imagined the practice could. Indeed, the benefits of yoga are undisputable. But the reason yoga is so cool is that, no matter your age, lifestyle, or budget, anyone can start doing yoga.
Always age-appropriate. For me, it was facing fifty that made me realize I was going to lose muscle if I did not use muscle. I had some trepidation that I was too old to start yoga classes. But what I learned is that yoga is inherently individual, so each person has complete control over the level of intenseness of each pose, stretch, and yoga session. With some women, poses may not be as deep, or limbs not quite as flexible, but we women, particularly older women, should regularly stretch and strengthen our muscles. Some studios even offer “chair yoga” for the more elderly.
Too busy? I am a full-time attorney, single mother of two beautiful daughters, a published legal writer, and soon-to-be law professor. Point being: we are all busy. But a daily (or almost daily) yoga practice does not require attending a yoga studio everyday, so practicing yoga can fit into the busiest of lifestyles.
For example, I still do yoga on Thursdays over the noon hour, but my almost-daily yoga practice occurs in one of two places: My bedroom, where I oftentimes do yoga watching Jimmy Fallon. A great way to end the day. Then I hit the sack for the ultimate shavasana. My other yoga retreat is a room in my office building that has a door and lock. I play yoga music from my iPhone and return from the lunch hour feeling strong. This way, the only minutes in the day that lost are those spent changing in and out of yoga pants (although I usually am already in my yoga pants at home), but no precious minutes are lost driving. Yoga is incredibly efficient.
If I could more regularly attend a yoga studio or gym, I would. When I do get a chance to take in a class, I always leave inspired and with a new arsenal of poses to practice. I only have time for one class, and that keeps my yoga workouts fresh. DVDs also provide good instructional material. So if the schedule simply does not permit driving to a studio or gym on a daily basis, get a mat and blocks for home, or find a private area at work, and do a quick yoga workout a few times a week. The benefits of regular yoga will quickly become apparent.
Seriously, a yoga mat and blocks are all you need. For less than $20, you too can become a yogini. Heck, to this day I still use my first Walmart mat. There are other yoga accessories available, like straps, mat-carrying bags, and eye pillows. But those items are not necessary to practice yoga. The cost of a yoga class varies by region, but attending only weekly or bi-weekly can help keep that expense low. As we age, we want to strengthen our muscles, and yoga provides an economical way to make that happen.
Every individual has different yoga goals. Me, I continue for the moment to push my body hard. But everyone need not push the envelope to that extent. Stretching, posing, flowing, and resting—those actions engage the muscles. The degree to which each woman wants to engage those muscles is up to the individual yoga student, and her only. But the muscles are being engaged.
Yoga offers an efficient and economical way for women of all ages and varying skill levels to maintain muscle tone, increase flexibility and improve balance. Plus, yoga nourishes the soul and spawns a feeling of empowerment. So far for me, the journey has been amazing.