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Reconsider Yoga

(from WebMD)

In Hollywood and glossy magazines, yoga is usually associated with a Jennifer Aniston-type twisting her lithe body into a gravity-defying pretzel. So even though yoga is popular, it can be daunting to people who aren’t already bendy and buff.

“The average citizen thinks, ‘I can’t do all those poses. I’m not cut out for yoga,’ says Michele Olson, PhD, FACSM, professor of exercise science at Auburn University.

But don’t fold up your yoga mat just yet. It’s got benefits for people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. Here are four people who prove that yoga isn’t just for a certain “type” — and reasons you might give it a try.

Yoga’s Physical Benefits

Yoga is good for flexibility, balance, and functional strength, Olson tells WebMD. It can also be a stress reducer.

“We all lose flexibility as we age,” Olson says. “When you sit all day long, your hamstrings get tight, and your neck, shoulders, and back. Our muscles are not meant to be in one posture hour after hour.”

Yoga can also have other health benefits. Researchers at Simmons College in Boston found that hatha and relaxation yoga can help with controlling weight, lowering blood pressure, and improving mood. Yoga has also been shown to ease hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in healthy women, as well as in breast cancer survivors.

There are yoga programs designed for different needs, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s. Some VA hospitals offer yoga to help patients recovering from strokes, brain injuries, and other illnesses.

“In a gym, you’re really pushing yourself to go further when you’re working out. In yoga, it’s the opposite,” says Megan Dunne, a yoga instructor in Chicago who works with individuals recovering from an injury or illness. “The yoga poses encourage all the range of motion that the body’s designed to do. So when you’re doing them mindfully and slowly, your body can learn through all the movements.”

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