A great time to try yoga

D.C. Yoga Week starts this Sunday, May 15. The week of events, including free and reduced classes at local yoga studios, kicks off Sunday with yoga on the National Mall from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. There will be kids’ activities, yoga practice, music and an appearance by Shiva Rea, a nationally-known yoga teacher.

D.C. Yoga Week is a great time to give yoga a try if you have never experienced it before, or if it has been a long time since you tried it. Ten local yoga studios will be offering specials during the week (see the D.C. Yoga week web site for a listing). The purpose of D.C. Yoga Week is to raise awareness of yoga’s benefits for both physical and mental health, and to give people an opportunity to try it at a reduced cost.

What are some of those benefits? Practicing yoga postures increases blood flow to specific areas of the body, supplying them with oxygen, which helps them function better. Yoga also increases flexibility in the spine & elsewhere, helping peopleĀ  carry out daily activities without injury. Yoga has been shown to alleviate symptoms of many diseases and conditions, such as anxiety and stress, arthritis, headaches, high blood pressure, addiction and insomnia.

Concentration on the physical postures of yoga trains the mind to focus away from thoughts. Regular yoga practice leads to greater stress tolerance because the autonomic nervous system has a higher threshold for arousal. The parasympathetic nervous system (which correlates with relaxation) is activated when practicing yoga, and becomes more dominant. Yoga teachers will often tell you that breathing through challenges on your mat makes you better able to deal with the challenges off the mat, in your daily life.

When you try yoga for the first time, don’t give up if you’re not sure you like it. Try several different types of classes, and several different teachers, before you decide. There are so many kinds of yoga, and styles of teaching, that sometimes it takes a while to find a practice that suits you. In the meantime, Yoga on the Mall (Sunday May 15) would be a low-key, fun way to try it!

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