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United States of Yoga

Illustration by Rami Niemi

ONE IN NINE AMERICANS have embraced the ancient health practice of yoga. We do it at home, at work, in the studio, at the airport, even in the park. 

Many people start yoga with a specific goal in mind — to alleviate back pain, reduce stress or improve their golf swing — but the practice can result in head-to-toe, full-body benefits.

In this special report, we share practical tips to get you started and stories and videos to keep you inspired. Plus, a free video lesson from our in-house yoga expert.

So what are you waiting for? Take a deep breath and join in.

 

 

A Yoga Story Straight From the Heart

YOGA HAS SAVED my life, twice.

The first time was after a physical trauma — a quadruple coronary bypass operation. Literally, a broken heart. 

The second was after a psychological trauma — a job layoff that devastated my ego.

Ironically, my physical body needed the more cerebral aspects of yoga to heal, and my psychological trauma demanded a physical practice. The cool thing about yoga, I have discovered in 20 years of practice and study, is that it offers both.

Yoga is a workout, for sure. But the asanas — or poses — are just part of it. Yoga is movement and breath and meditation: a three-legged stool.

After my bypass operation, I started slowly back to yoga with a gentle class. As I continued to practice two times a week, I could see changes in my still-hurting physical form. And though I had practiced yoga before, I did not really get the breath and meditation part of it until I was in serious need of physical healing. 

"I know from experience that it’s never too late to start, that the body will respond and the mind will follow."

I began to make those connections and found myself in meditative states on the mat. I relished the times at the beginning and end of practice when teachers would ask us to close our eyes and breathe. 

About seven years after my operation, when I was laid off by a company for which I’d worked 31 years, my ego was shattered and my anger was palpable. In the following months, I went to a hot power vinyasa (flow) class nearly every day. Those tough sessions wrung me out in every way. I was sweating out all the hurt and resentment, and several times found myself in savasana — the resting pose at the end of class — in tears. 

Today, I’m a part-time yoga teacher. My goal is to bring yoga to people over 50. I know from experience that it’s never too late to start, that the body will respond and the mind will follow.



FREE YOGA LESSON: It’s never too late to start your yoga practice. Join AARP Features Director Lorrie Lynch, who is a certified yoga instructor, for a free lesson geared toward beginners in their 50s and 60s. She will walk you through some basic poses while explaining how each pose benefits your mind, body and spirit. Namaste!


The United States of Yoga

Next: What to Try in Your 50s


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