Young, Old, Good And Awkward: Why Everyone Should Practice Yoga

Rachel Novetsky

The heat is blazing and the lights are gently dimmed. The curtains are drawn tightly shut as the room becomes more and more crowded.

The clothing is minimal and the mats are close together, leaving room for the few stragglers who come strolling in late.

A few calming words from the instructor usually starts off the class, accompanied by some heavy breathing, followed by setting your intentions and then sealing them with an "ommmm."

By now you probably know what yoga is, whether you’ve ever practiced it or just heard about it from all the namaste-ing yogis out there.

Well guess what? As annoying as they may seem, when they constantly post their pictures in a mind-boggling, distorted pose or preach their light and love, motivational honk-if-you-love-yoga nonsense, they actually are onto something.

Yoga truly is an amazing workout to partake in. The benefits, not only to your body, but also to your mind are incomparable.

The best part about yoga is that anyone can practice, no matter his or her age.

According to Yoga Journal, yoga improves your flexibility and posture, builds muscle strength, makes you happier and helps you focus.

For more benefits check out their article on the 38 Health Benefits of Yoga.

However, for all the non-yogi’s out there, taking class can be somewhat intimidating, or just plain awkward.

Between the sweaty, grunting, old men and the heavy breathers, you are sandwiched between, you can be easily distracted from your meditative state.

There are many different styles of yoga so you can find a class that best suits your needs. Some classes are heated while others are not.

The difference can be measured by the sweat piles left all over the floor, which I would suggest keeping an eye out for and avoiding upon exiting the class.

Here are six of the most common yoga classes:

1. Anusara

This style centers on a celebration of life. It seeks to use the physical practice of yoga to help students let their inner goodness excel.

It is meant to be heartfelt and accepting, and allows students to express themselves through the poses rather than trying to fix or correct them.

2. Ashtanga

This style is a more challenging style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures in the exact same order.

Flowing from one pose to the next, each movement is linked to a breath.

3. Bikram

This style is for all the heat lovers. You will work your way through a series of 26 basic yoga poses in a room where the heat is cranked up to around 105 degrees.

Sweating it out is your only option here.

4. Hatha

This style class encompasses nearly all types of modern yoga, and is a gentle introduction to the most basic breathing exercises and yoga postures.

You may not break a sweat, but you should leave feeling stretched out and more relaxed.

5. Restorative

A rejuvenating class that requires less work and more relaxation.

You’ll do multiple poses using props like blankets and blocks to help you sink into a deep relaxation and an even deeper meditative state.

6. Vinyasa

Vinyasa means "flow," and the classes are known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices. These classes can vary depending on the instructor, but consist of a smooth transition from pose to pose.

The class is usually accompanied by music to keep things lively and allows for more experimental independence, so if you are not into routine give this style a try.

The reassuring thing about being a newbie to yoga is that in most classes, there are people of all levels. It is comforting knowing you can adjust your practice and go at your own pace and flow.

This being said, I’ve had my fair share of embarrassments in class, but yet, I always find myself going back.

There was the time I was stretching on my back with my leg extended out to the side. I heard someone say, “Wow, she’s flexible. I could never do that.”

A sucker for attention, I pushed my leg even further, snapping my hamstring leaving me with a burning sensation for the rest of the class (and a good six-month recovery).

A word of advice: Don’t try to show off. You WILL hurt yourself. With that being said, I like to think there are three categories one could fall under based on skill level.

The Doer(s)

These are your hardcore yoga freaks. This is the avid yogi who takes classes at least four times a week or repetitively takes class after class.

They have every move down to a science, and as they flow through their practice, their moves are perfect. They can do it all: the headstand, the crow pose and basically any other pose that requires strength and balance.

These are the people you find yourself staring at with your jaw dropped to the floor. If you weren’t red in the face from a mix of heat and over-exertion you’d find yourself green with envy.

The Tryer(s)

These are the people who want so badly to fit in with the "doers," but they just don’t have what it takes (yet?). These people are a little more advanced than the “newers,” but nowhere near the “doers”.

They may have even been taking yoga on and off for years but have not dedicated themselves to the practice. These are the people who have good form, but not great.

They will attempt a headstand because they’re in the moment and want nothing more than to master good form.

Then they find themselves humiliated because their core wasn’t strong enough or their balance hasn’t been perfected.

They end up plopping over onto their neighbor, or smacking onto the floor making a loud thumping noise, inevitably diverting eyes in their direction (and not in an envious way).

I fall into this category. In fact, I gave myself a black eye from being a “tryer.” Striving to master the crow pose, my feeble arms couldn’t handle the pressure, leaving me headed for the hardwood floor eye-socket first.

The Newer(s)

Well the “newers” are exactly that: new to yoga. Usually these are the ones who hardly know what they are doing. You will find them with their eyes open when everyone else’s are shut.

They don’t know the names of each move, so they resort to glancing around the room, only to hear the instructor telling “the class” to “go with your own flow.

Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing.”You think to yourself, “I know you’re talking directly to me Cheryl!” But hey, if you fall into this category, at least you are giving it a shot and you will only get better at it … right?!

The bottom line is, yoga is beneficial no matter what category you fall into. I met a woman the other day who was 78 and did not look a day over 65.

I asked what her secret was and she replied, “yoga.”

I am becoming more and more of a believer because I have been seeing the results first-hand: smaller waists, defined arms and tight cores and backs.

So although I joke and sometimes dread going to class -- because it can be a slow form of exercising torture -- I do find myself in attendance more frequently and actually enjoying it.

It's time to join the yoga movement, so I would suggest getting out there and attempting to strike a pose.