Before you begin reading this, I want you to take a moment, stand up, and reach to the floor – without bending your knees. Did you make it? Three years ago before I started practicing yoga, my answer would have been, ‘no.’ That answer began to change when I decided to try a yoga class at my local Civic Center. This is the story of how yoga helped me touch my toes.

When I first entered the yoga class, I was intimidated. Flashbacks of gym class were running through my mind. I was not athletic, flexible, or coordinated, but I was hoping to change that. The class was filled with older yoga students, and I said to myself, I am twenty-six; surely I can keep up with people in their 60’s and 70’s. That was my thought until we began the breathing exercise. We inhaled raising hands over our head and slowly exhaled lowering our hands down to the ground. My hands stopped at my shins while the older people were touching the floor!

Initially, I got back in that old gym school mentality where you push, push, compete, compete. It was embarrassing to be surpassed by students twice my age. But I soon learned yoga is not a competition sport. It is about setting personal goals and working at your own pace to meet them. My yoga teacher kept saying, “Do your best and let that be good enough.” By then end of the class, I was lying in Shavasana completely relaxed. Suddenly, it did not matter that I was a complete klutz who could barely reach past my knees. I was a yoga student ready for a new adventure. After practicing yoga for many years, I became one of those students that could reach all the way to the floor.

The Benefits of Yoga

Yoga has a lot of other benefits besides toe-touching. Studies suggest yoga is a good way to reduce stress and anxiety, and I definitely noticed a decrease in my own stress. I can definitely tell a difference in my outlook and attitude when I am practicing yoga full time or when I am not.

Besides the emotional aspect, yoga has great physical benefits. Flexibility is just as important and often overlooked in other exercise programs. As we get older, staying flexible has a significant impact on mobility. Practicing yoga also helps with balance, coordination and muscle definition. I actually developed elbow muscles. Who knew those existed?

Meditation tips

One aspect of my yoga practice that has been lacking is meditation. There always seems to be too little time in the class, and when I tried to do meditation on my own, it was difficult to quiet my mind. It is an important part of maintaining a good state of mind.

Recommended Yoga 5 Star Studios in Nashville

If you are looking for a yoga studio near you, here are some recommendations from Yelp:

Besides going to a yoga studio, you can take classes at a gym, your local YMCA, a Civic Center or community center. There are even free yoga instructional videos online, but the help of an instructor can go a long way in teaching you the proper stances. As with any exercise program, you need quality instruction to avoid injury until you are comfortable with the limits of your own body.

Give Yoga a Chance

Yoga is a great way to make positive changes in your health and your life. There are many wonderful places to practice yoga at all skill levels. Most studios provide the supplies you need. So grab a mat, a friend, and get started on the yoga path. Who knows? Maybe one day you will be able to touch your toes, too.

By Dee Gross