Confession time. I was a total nonbeliever in yoga just a few years ago. As a competitive gymnast and an avid dancer, I thought yoga, with all the Zen and Ohm-ing, was a bit of a joke. I honestly thought it would be too easy.
I was seriously mistaken.
My first yoga class kicked my butt. When the teacher gave us options for movement, I always chose the hardest one. I never took a break to take a sip of water. I kept looking around the class to see how I was fitting in with everyone else who was practicing. I left the class feeling exhausted, dehydrated, nauseated and extremely surprised at my lack of success.
What I didn’t understand then was that I was going about practicing yoga all wrong. Yoga is deeply personal. I was too worried about doing it well and being good at it because I didn’t understand that yoga isn’t about ego or competition. It’s about doing what works for you and your body on any particular day. Seven people could do the same class, and each of those seven could chose different options within the workout. As a result, yoga is one form of exercise that doesn’t rely on competition or stress. These are just some of the many things I had to learn about yoga.
Whether you think that yoga is too difficult or too easy for you, you’re wrong. I seriously mean it when I saw that anyone and everyone has the capability and potential to practice and take advantage of yoga. And your life can definitely be improved if you do.
Why Should You Do Yoga?
There are so many benefits of practicing yoga, and it’s really hard to pin down what the most wonderful benefit is. Let’s just check out some of the best reasons why you should incorporate yoga into your life:
- Increases Flexibility: practicing yoga can help you stretch out those parts of the body that remain static throughout the rest of the day (while sitting in an office chair for 8 hours, for example). Yoga practices target various joints in the body, including the ones that are rarely exercised in other workouts.
- Increases Strength and Energy: yoga is great for overall strength training and will help improve your posture. Yoga focuses on building a strong core which means, in addition to killer abs, you’ll gain greater overall body strength. A strong core can additionally help heal your body and reduce injuries. You’ll also find that your overall balance is improved as is your control over your body.
- Weight Loss: using yoga as your main form of exercise and help you to drop/maintain a healthy weight. One great thing about yoga is that you stretch your muscles while simultaneous strengthening them, which makes for long lean muscles and less cellulite around the muscles.
- Increases Lubrication of Joints, Ligaments and Tendons: when your joints are lubricated, body movement can actually become easier.
- Improves Your Mood: practicing yoga can actually make you a happier person. It helps to reduce stress anxiety and depression, create stronger feelings of self-acceptance and self-control, and increase the connection between your mind and your body. Yoga can help you concentrate and improve your attention span as well as create a calmness in the body and mind.
- Breathing and Energy: breathing is natural and controlled during yoga, and with more oxygen-rich air, your body is provided with more energy and experiences less fatigue.
- Massages Body Organs: practicing yoga helps you to massage your organs and detoxify them. As a result of detoxification, the practice can also help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, type II diabetes, and heart disease.
- Relieves and Reduces Symptoms: medical professionals have proven that yoga can help reduce symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, migraines, scoliosis and much more.
- Other Health Benefits: a consistent yoga practice can help decrease blood pressure and improve circulation and oxygenation of the body, improve cardiovascular endurance, build a stronger immune system, and increase your pain tolerance.
With all of those benefits (and those aren’t even all of them!) how can you resist the lure of yoga? Have you always thought it was too expensive to take yoga classes? If you did, you are luckily mistaken.
So fast-forward to now in my life. I am completely obsessed with yoga (if you couldn’t tell) for the reasons that I didn’t quite understand at first. And now I enjoy it even more since I discovered I could do it essentially for free. With each yoga class costing me $15 when I first got started, I found myself spending a good chunk of money on classes. While I enjoyed the environment of class and the presence of a teacher, I couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t be able to do yoga on a regular basis in my home for free if I had the proper equipment and resources.
Being the Tip Hero that I am, I of course discovered that I could practice yoga at essentially no cost, and I currently do so on a weekly basis. Want to know how you can do the same? I’m going to walk you through some of the free (or extremely cheap) ways I’ve found to practice yoga over the last few months. If you have any other tips for all the fellow and potential yogis out there, please share them with us in the comments section below!
How to Practice for Free
This resource is free to join and easy to use. They not only feature full length yoga videos but also allow you to create a profile, create a yoga blog where you can update other users about your success, and read other users’ blogs as well. MyFreeYoga creates a community, so you don’t have to feel cut off from other yogis when you ditch class. You can still remain connected to other people who are following the same videos and tips.
Here’s just one of the videos that was featured on the site recently that I particularly enjoyed. It shows us how we can open our hearts, both physically and emotionally:
I adore ExerciseTV onDemand. There is always a great variety of videos that change every month. On Comcast’s OnDemand (I’m not promoting Comcast here – that’s just the service I have in my home), they have a whole section devoted to Yoga and Pilates, varying in levels of difficulty. So whether you’re a beginner or an advanced yogi, there’s always something there for you. And the best part? The videos are absolutely free with your service.
Don’t have Comcast? That’s alright! You can still enjoy ExerciseTV for free on your computer.
There are several options here for membership, but they do offer a free option. Each week, the site features a free class, which is just around an hour long. You can opt to have Yoga Today send you a weekly newsletter with the week’s free class at no charge.
Once you’ve taken a class, you have the ability to rate it and discuss it with other members. Also, if you find a class that you’d really like to do that’s not a “free weekly class,” you can download it and save it to your cue for just $3.99. You can also check out next week’s releases so you know what will be offered for free.
This site offers free poses and full length beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. It also gives you the unique ability to create your own routine. All you have to do is select “Add Current Video to Routine” when you find a video you like and it will be added to one of your custom-made routines.
Yoga Gear on the Cheap
There seems to be no end to the amount of yoga equipment out there on the market. With expensive specialized yoga balls, clothing, mats, blanket, etc. featured in sporting good stores and online, getting started with yoga can seem a bit intimidating. However, it is possible to get everything you need to practice yoga for less than $10. You could even do it for free if you got really creative. Take a look at some of my ideas for substitute items for expensive gear and accessories:
- Yoga Mat: the cheapest place I’ve found to purchase a brand new yoga mat is BuyYogaMat.com, where you can get a mat for as low as $10. I recommend getting an actual mat because it is designed to prevent you from slipping and makes your practice a whole lot more stable and comfortable. However, you can easily use carpet, a rug, a blanket or a towel as your yoga mat as long as you feel sturdy during your practice.
- Yoga Straps: yoga straps make poses easier if your body is feeling tight one day or your flexibility needs some work. These straps can easily run you $10 or more if you buy them in a store or online. However, since these straps just need to be sturdy and about 6 feet long, you can easily use scarves, neckties or belts that you already own as your personal (and free) yoga straps.
- Yoga Blocks: these add height and support during your workouts. For example, if you are bending forward and your hands don’t reach the ground, a block will provide a comfortable, yet still challenging, resting place for your hands in this exercise. Instead of purchasing blocks, which could easily cost you $5-$15 each, try using big stacked books (how about those huge yellow page phone books?) or a short, sturdy chair.
- Yoga Clothing: there are many people out there who need to have the most fashionable yoga-specific clothing available. You, however, certainly don’t need “special” clothing to do yoga. If you have some t-shirts, tank tops, bike shorts, leggings, sweatpants, etc., you’re good to go.
- Towels and Blankets: chances are you already have extras of these lying around. Though not essential, blankets can be used for extra cushioning or support. Towels are great for wiping away sweat in a high-intensity cardio yoga workout.
Take Yoga Wherever You Go
One of the best things about yoga is that once you get used to it, you can develop your own personal routines for use whenever and wherever you’d like. On a particularly gorgeous day, you could take your mat outside to the yard, park, beach, etc. and get practicing. While traveling, you can do some yoga in a hotel room or guest room (if there’s space, of course). Depending on your work space, you can even squeeze in 10 or 15 minutes of yoga if you need a quick boost of energy, a bout of relaxation, or just some time to concentrate and pull yourself back together. Yoga, like a good friend (yes cheesy, I know), can be there for you whenever you need it. And it won’t cost you a cent.
To all other yogis out there – what are some of your favorite techniques for doing yoga on the cheap? Or to those of you who don’t prefer yoga as your main form of exercise – what are some of your methods for exercising at home? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for being a Tip Hero!