Live well, be well, be good to yourself, be good to others. Let’s do some yoga.

Squatting on the ground, senior Brian Ayers leaned forward, placing his hands 10 inches in front of his feet. Supporting his forearms on his inner thighs, he leaned farther and lifted his feet off the ground, supporting his entire body weight with his arms.

Ayers has practiced yoga with the cross country team as a training element during the past two seasons. Once a week, a yoga instructor from Element Fitness led the team through a series of motions aimed at improving flexibility and endurance.

“I’d be really tired after a long run, and we’d come in and do yoga. It made me feel much better and relaxed,” Ayers said.

Yoga originated more than 500 years ago as a spiritual outlet for early religion in India, but it is more of a physical practice today. Roughly 16 million Americans practice some form of yoga today, transforming it into a multi-billion dollar industry, according to a survey by Harris Interactive.

According to Element Fitness yoga instructor Amanda Scott, the main goal of yoga is to unite the physical body with the mind to build positive thinking, which could be very helpful for insecure or stressed teens.

“Teenagers are so worried about what they’re doing Friday night. In yoga, the focus is about you. It’s about being present at this very second and shutting off the outside world,” Scott said.

Although there are many variations of yoga, most classes teach participants how to move through a series of motions that enhance flexibility, balance and strength. All movement is coordinated with deep breathing to create a feeling of relaxation. Yoga is also a time of reflection — a time to find out what the body is capable of doing.

“It’s hard for humans to turn off their ego, but yoga is about allowing your body to do what it’s able to do, not what others around you are doing,” Scott said.
With pose names like Downward Dog and Camel, many teenagers might think of yoga as a frivolous workout like step aerobics, but it’s not.

“I expected it to be really easy and relaxing, but it turned out to be much harder. It was tough to balance and do a lot of the poses,” Ayers said. “There were 50-year-olds doing the hardest poses that I wouldn’t think of doing. They were pretty intense.”

According to Scott, yoga combined with lifting and endurance sports strengthens athletes and enables them to recover quickly from injuries.

Although yoga classes are most popular with elderly people trying to regain their former mobility, they are open to beginners. So, if you’re interested in become a yogi, here are some tips and introductory poses to get you started.

12 Yoga poses to get started:

  • Mountain
  • Standing half forward bend
  • Plank
  • Crane
  • Child’s Pose
  • Pigeon
  • Downward dog
  • Warrior I
  • Warrior III
  • Boat
  • Camel
  • Corpse

So you want to start…?

  • Have a friend go with you the first time so you can both laugh about your flexibility limitations.
  • Don’t be turned off by the number of adults in the class. They’re there for the same reason as you, to enhance mobility, stay fit and gain strength.
  • Find a class for you. For a greater spiritual element, find an actual yoga studio to become a member of. For more of a workout, pick a health club and choose a flow yoga or PiYo class that keeps participants constantly moving.
  • For couples, partner yoga is a great way to build understanding and trust.