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Yoga: Meditation for the Mind, Body, and Spirit

by Lindsay SwisherPEP Young Women's Leadership Council

Last semester, I had the opportunity to take a Yoga class twice a week. I heard lots of people talking about the benefits of yoga: flexibility, energy, peace. I shrugged it off as too much of a low-impact exercise. What's the point of exercise if I don't leave the gym feeling sweaty and exhausted? However, after just a few weeks in the class I was hooked! I've never felt more relaxed and at peace than when I am on my yoga mat.

There are many books that teach the important lessons of Yoga. My personal favorite, Total Yoga: A Step by Step Guide to Yoga at Home for Everybody, includes not only useful poses but lessons on the history of yoga, as well as health tips and the different types of yoga practices. According to the book, "Yoga is a branch of Indian philosophy…referring to the union of the individual self with the universal consciousness." It focuses on merging all aspects of your life into a unified being.

Yoga really does improve your flexibility. It even wakes you up at any time of the day. There are personal pose sequences that people can do for any situation. My personal favorite is the Sun Salutation sequence. This sequence is done each morning facing the rising sun. It focuses on deep breathing and slow, continuous movements that stretch the body and create muscle strength. The sequence should be done in repetition at least 5 times each morning to awaken the body. There are many other sequences for a variety of occasions and they can be done at differing levels of intensity.

While the poses are what most people think of when they hear the word "Yoga", the practice incorporates much more. It is a holistic way to improve your body, including eating a certain diet. As with all healthy diets, Yoga stresses the importance of water to help clean out toxins that build up during Yogic exercises. The Yoga diet also talks about the importance of eating foods in their most natural state and attempting to avoid foods that are been processed or preserved. The practice looks at foods as existing on a continuum, where the extremes of sugars and red meats should be avoided. Yoga also encourages the practice of fasting, but only as a means of cleansing the body.

Overall, Yoga is an amazing way to liven and strengthen the body, and create a healthier you! Practicing Yoga on a regular basis is sure to improve your mind, body, and spirit!

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