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Still deciding on a New Year’s resolution? Hit the yoga mat

By Kandy Childress • Dec 26, 2019 at 8:30 PM

January is poised to bring in the new year and with it a slew of resolutions aimed at self-improvement. Science reveals that while many make resolutions, only a few are able to achieve their goals. Studies show that 75% of people keep their resolutions intact for one week. Six months later 46% are still on target. It’s not surprising that only 8% of resolution-makers actually accomplish what they set out to do.

While the science may paint a bleak picture, not all is lost. The good news is research shows people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change behavior than those who never commit. The trick, according to Professor Weisman of England’s University of Hertfordshire, is to select just one goal that can be achieved in spite of our chaotic and busy lives.

A commitment to hit the yoga mat for 20 minutes a day is an ideal resolution to consider. The practice of yoga can be done virtually anywhere: the privacy of your home at a time most convenient for you, at a local gym (the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA offers classes) or yoga studio, or even while traveling. All you will need to practice is a yoga mat, which can be purchased for under $20.

If you choose to practice outside of the YMCA or local yoga studio, check out the hundreds of free yoga videos available on YouTube. For example, Yoga with Adriene is a popular series that features targeted yoga practices for virtually every need. Adriene’s 30-day yoga challenges are perfect for beginners as they slowly introduce breath-controlled exercises and yoga postures and end with a resting period. Since yoga’s core essence is noncompetitive, yoga sessions always offer varying degrees of difficulty depending on where you are on your yoga journey.

Still not convinced to give yoga a try? Consider a personal testimony from Dilip Sarkar, a 51-year-old vascular surgeon from Virginia who was the picture of health until 2001 when chest pains resulted in emergency by-pass surgery.

Shortly after the life-threatening ordeal, which he later attributed to a hyperarousal state, Sarkar became fascinated with yoga therapy as a way to improve his health and prevent this near-fatal event from happening again. “What I’ve found through practicing and studying yoga therapy is that people who have a daily practice have effortlessly and automatically changed their lifestyle. They eat better, sleep better, their lifestyle is more regulated.”

Thousands of scientific studies support Sarkar’s assertions about the immense power of yoga to harmonize your entire wellbeing, leading to a healthier, stronger, and more flexible body and a calm, focused mind. Need more data before giving yoga a go? Consider these final two points related to improved cardiovascular health and boosting weight loss and maintenance.

Yoga has been found to have a positive effect on cardiovascular risk factors: It can help lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension and improve lipid profiles in healthy patients as well as patients with known coronary artery disease. It can also lower excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes and reduce their need for medications. Yoga is now being included in many cardiac rehabilitation programs due to its cardiovascular and stress-relieving benefits.

Research also found that yoga practitioners generally gained less weight, especially during middle adulthood. And people who were overweight actually lost weight. Overall, those practicing yoga had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) compared to those who did not practice yoga. Researchers attributed this to mindfulness, which is the ability to focus your attention on what you are experiencing in the present moment without judging yourself.

Want to be one of the 8-percenters who are able to achieve their New Year’s resolution? Select one goal (like hitting the yoga mat), publicly declare your intention, grab a friend and share the goal, realize you’ll likely need a mulligan or two, and reward yourself for every small success along the way until you finally celebrate reaching your proverbial finish line.

Kandy Childress can be reached via email at kandy.childress@gmail.com.

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