Yoga 101: How to get started with this accessible, balanced form of exercise

(BPT) - More than half of all Americans exercise regularly, according to a 2015 Gallup poll, but there's still room for most people to improve their fitness. Even if you're exercising a few times a week, that may not meet recommended activity levels. If you're looking for a type of physical activity that fits easily into your lifestyle, delivers physical and mental health benefits, yet is gentle enough to be done every day, yoga may be what you're looking for.

"Yoga delivers countless health benefits, including stress reduction, improved blood circulation, flexibility and strength," says Ashley Kohler, manager of Yoga on the Lake, part of Destination Kohler, the five-star, five-diamond resort in Kohler, Wisconsin. "Doing yoga just three times a week can help you sleep better and reduce symptoms of many chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes and thyroid disorders."

If you've never considered yoga, or have thought of it but weren't sure whether it's for you, Kohler offers some insights into how yoga works and the benefits it offers:

* Any age is right - Yoga is good for people of every age, from children to senior citizens. In fact, many studios offer classes for new moms and their infants to help mother's post-childbirth recovery and facilitate bonding between Mom and baby. Its benefits for older demographics are also widely recognized, from helping improve balance and flexibility, to gently improving muscle tone and strength.

* You can jump right in - While many people will enjoy a one-on-one experience with a certified yoga instructor, it's not necessary to take private lessons before joining a class. Studios like Yoga on the Lake offer a variety of beginner-friendly classes, as well as individual lessons for those who want a more private setting for learning the basics, or who want to work on specific personal goals.

* Yoga is great for varying levels of physical ability - You should always consult your doctor before beginning any new fitness routine, especially if you have existing health conditions. That said, yoga is accessible to people of virtually all fitness levels, from those who are starting out sedentary to people who are very physically active. You don't have to be particularly flexible to get started, either; yoga gives you flexibility. And for yoga enthusiasts, yoga sculpt formatted classes provide a high-intensity yoga option.

* It's about more than just improving flexibility - Better flexibility is probably one of the best-known benefits of yoga but it's far from the only one. Ultimately, yoga aims to bring together the mind, body and spirit in healthful physical activity.

* Fast a few hours before class - Attempting yoga on a full stomach could lead to discomfort and cramps, so try to avoid eating an hour or two before class begins.

* Start from a place of love - "You'll go farther, faster if you take a loving attitude toward yourself and work from where you are, not from where you think you should be," Kohler advises. Don't feel pressured to perform as well as anyone else in the class. Do as much as you're able without straining or injuring yourself.

* Leave distractions outside the studio - Leave cell phones and pagers in the locker room or your car; never bring them to your yoga mat. Yoga studios are also typically quiet environments in order to foster relaxation and peace, so try to leave socializing and business outside.

* Yoga can be a vacation from the everyday - "Many people who practice yoga regularly view it as their 'me time,'" Kohler says. "It's a break from the demands of the everyday." Resorts like Destination Kohler offer active travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in a truly soothing, spiritually renewing environment with a spa, yoga studio and other relaxing amenities such as golf and nature trails. To learn more about Yoga on the Lake and its Yoga Alliance certified staff and Destination Kohler, visit www.destinationkohler.com.


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