Yoga is practiced worldwide by millions of people, and offers some incredible health and wellness benefits. The beauty of yoga is that can be practiced almost anywhere, and by anyone. Here on St. Croix, there is a thriving yoga community and classes are offered island wide for every level of yoga practitioner. Take advantage of some of the yoga classes offered on this beautiful island to achieve balance for yourself, and to refresh your body, mind and soul.
If you are not yet familiar with yoga, it combines poses (or postures) and movement, breathing exercises, relaxation, self-awareness and meditation in order to cultivate physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Probably the most well known aspect of yoga is balance. On a physical level, practicing yoga strengthens and tones your core muscles, which in turn improves your balance – but, yoga offers mental and emotional balance in addition to the physical. Yoga teaches you to let go of stress, relax your body, breathe deeply, and look inward to find peace and happiness. Flexibility is another well know component of yoga. If you think you’re not flexible enough to start doing yoga, relax. You will find that flexibility is a result of practicing yoga, regardless of how flexible you are to begin with. The flexibility and balance you gain from yoga will also be accompanied by increased strength and coordination, enhanced cardiovascular health, and a sense of overall well-being.
Yoga offers some amazing benefits, even if you only practice for one hour a week. Some of the more well documented benefits of practicing yoga include:
- Increased balance, endurance, strength and flexibility
- Reduced stress and physical tension, which leads to increased memory and self-awareness
- Increased emotional health, and decreased depression and anxiety
- Strengthening of the spine and core muscles, providing relief from back pain
- Improved posture
- Reduced risk of heart disease and arthritis
- Improved sleep
If you have never taken a class before, don’t be intimidated. In general, instructors are friendly and are willing to help you get started and make sure you get the poses correct as you go through the class. To get started you really only need comfortable clothing and a yoga mat. Wear comfortable, stretchy clothing that does not impede your movement so that you to stretch every which way, hold the poses, and move easily between poses. Yoga is generally done on an aptly named ‘yoga mat’. These mats are designed to provide traction for some of the standing poses, as well as a little bit of cushion for those poses that involve sitting or lying down on the floor. You can buy a yoga mat at most yoga studios, gyms, department or sporting goods stores, or online. If you don’t own one, or aren’t ready to buy one just yet, you can often borrow them from the the studio or gym where you are taking your yoga class.
To pick the right class to get started, you will want to read the class descriptions or ask your local studio or instructor which class is right for a beginner. If you are a more advanced yoga practitioner, consider trying a new type of yoga to challenge yourself. Here on St. Croix you can try: Ashtanga (a more vigorous style of yoga offering a series of poses, each held for only five breaths), Vinyasa (classes that flow from one pose to the next without stopping to talk about the finer points of each pose), Hatha (a gentle yoga class), Kemetic (a healing and regenerative Yoga system that is characterized by a series of geometrically progressive postures that creates alignment of the spinal column and corrects defects in the skeletal muscular system), or Fundamentals of Yoga (a great beginner class). There are even yoga classes offered here on the island for children and teens.
If you want to step outside the box of standard yoga classes, consider doing yoga on the water. Try yoga on a stand up paddleboard as part of a SUP Fitness class, currently being offered at Chenay Bay by Stone Bodyworks Wellness.
No matter what your experience level, yoga will help you to achieve and maintain a harmonious balance between your physical, emotional, and mental self, and will promote general well-being in many aspects of your life. St. Croix offers some beautiful courtyard studios, yoga on the beach, and yoga retreats to nourish your body and soul. You can even find one-on-one wellness coaches that can teach you the basics of breathing and movement to ease you into yoga safely. Please visit our Yoga and Fitness page for a list of yoga studios and instructions, and check out our Calendar of Events for class times. Namaste!
– Jennie Ogden, Editor