At this point in the game, you have come across a self-proclaimed yogi. They are easy to spot. Just look for brightly colored Lycra pants and follow the intermittent whiffs of incense. They’re probably sipping an awkwardly green drink and proclaiming the benefits of mediation. Or perhaps you have seen them on Instagram with the pictures of fit figures in arm-balancing poses like Scorpion or Flying Crow; feet in the air, bodies in contorted positions. It’s enough to keep any outsider from coming within a yoga mat’s distance of a studio.
The good news is that not only yogis practice yoga. Regular non-bendy folks are rolling out their mats daily and enjoying the benefits of this ancient discipline. The requirements are few. Come as you are, be willing and have a mat. (The last one isn’t even a necessity. Most studios will have mats available for rent and use.) So who is yoga for?
How about insomniacs? Yoga is for people who can’t sleep. Findings from clinical trials by Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggest that a regular yoga practice can reduce the effects of chronic insomnia. Total sleep time and overall quality of sleep improved significantly as participants maintained a simple daily practice. My go-to for better sleep is Power or Vinyasa Yoga. In a Power Yoga class, you’ll be led through multiple sequences for a full-body workout. Sometimes the room is heated, but that depends on the studio.
Yoga is also for people who are stressed at work. Studies have found that just a single hour-long yoga class per week can improve overall self-confidence and ability to handle high-stress situations in the workplace. Any style yoga will provide the benefit of relieving stress, but a great variation that calms is found in Restorative Yoga. Think less work and more relaxation as poses are held longer and props are easily available for modifications. It will be the most chill lunch break you’ll ever take.
And yoga is for anxious people because every style of yoga begins with a breathing exercise. With every movement there is an accompanying inhalation and exhalation. This simple practice of conscious breathing while in challenging poses increases activation of the parasympathetic nervous system as opposed to the sympathetic. It’s the involuntary choice of rest-and-digest versus fight-or-flight made accessible. A continued yoga practice is training for remaining calm no matter the situation.
Yoga is for people who cannot touch their toes. No matter the sequence or pose, yoga is personal. It is not a competition to see who can bend or twist the farthest. The beauty of this discipline is starting where you are and building from there. This week it might mean reaching your knees. In three weeks, maybe your ankles. Yoga not only increases flexibility, but also strength, which means better performance in other sports and also less chance for injury.
To put it simply, yoga is for everyone. The mental and physical benefits far outweigh any excuse to not try a class or start a home practice. The real challenge is stopping once you realize the good that comes from it all. And should you become a yogi, I will admit (somewhat begrudgingly) that yoga is still for you.
Brittany Norris is an RYT 200 who received her training at MBody Yoga. Her favorite style yoga is Baptiste Power Yoga followed by Restorative Yoga.