Fit for life and so much more

Perhaps the most important benefit Yoga can offer you as a teen is the opportunity to develop a lifelong friendship with your body. When you develop a Yoga practice, first under the guidance of a skilled and nurturing teacher and then later on your own, you tune in to your body, pay attention to what's is happening, and respond appropriately — not unlike the good energy you put into your friendships with your best buddies. A regular Yoga practice can help you develop the focus, concentration, and discipline you need to study well and pursue your dreams. And when you're barefooted on your mat in the practice studio, you're free from the pecking order of your school campus. Yoga helps you become self confident and courageous, without competing. How good is that?

Of course, Yoga is also a great way to become and stay fit. Both the USDA and Health Canada rank having an adequate level of physical activity as a high health priority. The revised USDA Food Pyramid (www.mypyramid.gov) actually includes it as part of a balanced diet.

As a form of physical fitness, Yoga is an attractive package:

✓ It's economical. You already have this book, so you can begin practicing right away without anything else.

✓ You don't need a gym or a playing field. You just need enough floor space to practice safely. If you practice at home, try to find a private space. If your space is at a premium, consider following the lead of a highly-respected Yoga teacher who's been known to practice "bathroom Yoga" when no other private space was available. Building codes require even the smallest bathrooms to have a certain amount of floor space. Check it out. Yours may just be long enough for a mat.

Can Yoga help you maintain a healthy weight?

According to Robert M. Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers (Henry Holt and Company), modern garden variety stressors can lead to overeating, and in particular, choosing the wrong kinds of food to overeat. Stress floods your body with hormones that affect your appetite. If the stress is intense but shortlived, most people usually experience a loss of appetite — the way you feel when you're too nervous to eat. But when you experience frequent on-and-off stress throughout the course of the day, day in and day out, the hormonal levels in the body increase appetite — and not for the healthy stuff. What helps? Regular exercise that you look forward to doing, meditation, and cultivating a self-accepting, non-perfectionist approach to life are a few things that have been shown to help. How handy to be able to find all of that in Yoga.

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