“The muscle strength gained from doing yoga helps prevent ailments that occur as we age, such as arthritis.”

By Rebecca Treon

Numerous studies tout the good yoga does for both body and mind. Practitioners have reported increased strength and flexibility, relief of aches and pains, reduced stress, better sleep patterns, and fewer colds.

When you start out, you might not be able to touch your toes, let alone twist yourself into a pretzel like some of the yoga stars in class. But with regular practice, soon muscles will loosen. Tight ligaments can put strain on the knees and back, and can create poor posture. The muscle strength gained from doing yoga helps prevent ailments that occur as we age, such as arthritis. The balance poses in yoga are also beneficial because they strengthen the core, which can help prevent falls.

Yogini Hendrickson practices Shambhava yoga, which incorporates an internal and meditative focus. (photo courtesy Yogini Hendrickson)

Other benefits of practicing yoga include increased energy, reduced anxiety and depression, improved circulatory and cardio health, plus organ detoxification and fewer injuries.

There are numerous styles of yoga. Both Bikram and Hot Yoga are done in a heated room, Vinyasa has a varied routine, and Hatha refers to any type of yoga that relies on 26 repeated poses. Ashtanga is a more physically demanding type of yoga, while Iyengar is best for more detailed practitioners, because it emphasizes paying attention to proper alignment in a pose. Many types of yoga, particularly Restorative Yoga, focus on restorative work, breathwork and meditation to center the spirit. Ansura kicks things up a spiritual notch because it encourages practitioners to experience grace and open their hearts.

Yogini Hendrickson, a yogi from the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat in Rollinsville, practices Shambhava yoga, a style of yoga that incorporates an internal and meditative focus. (Shoshoni also runs the Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram, which offers numerous classes, including ones for the whole family.)

“Physically, your body will feel better after a yoga class. Yoga can lengthen, strengthen and improve flexibility,” says Hendrickson. “We sit a lot in our culture, we are driving or at a computer, doing things that round our spine. Numerous studies have shown yoga and meditation improve sleep and find peace of mind, which is priceless. Yoga can help people find a quiet in the mind that helps find contentment.”

The Shoshoni Yoga Retreat also gives people time to interact with nature, another calming side effect.

It’s easy to get into an exercise rut, but adding a kick to a regular yoga practice is trending across the country right now, whether it’s by adding in a furry friend or an adult beverage. In Boulder County, different styles fuse your practice with something that makes yoga anything but routine, each with unique benefits.

These days, practitioners of yoga have added all sorts of variations to their practice—some light hearted (like those classes that incorporate adult beverages, puppies and goats) and some more intense (like acupuncture or aerial yoga). Others, like stand-up paddleboard yoga and slackline yoga, involve a more balanced practice. In fact, Boulder County offers many options for people who want to do yoga while outdoors, from yoga hikes to classes in the park or at the farmers market.

Rachael Carlevale incorporates cannabis into her yoga routine and now teaches others how to do the same. (photo courtesy Rachael Carlevale)

Boulder County is the perfect place to combine the state’s favorite pasttimes of cannabis and yoga. Rachael Carlevale, who at one time performed with the Boston Ballet while studying pre-med at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, has used cannabis while doing yoga for years. Diagnosed with cancer at 23, she used yoga combined with medicinal plants to help her recover, and now she shares her knowledge with others.

While living with the indigenous Peruvian Shipbo tribe, she found the inspiration to create Ganjasana, a yoga that incorporates the two. Carlevale sees her classes as healing ceremonies where participants consume cannabis and use other medicinal plants and do yoga poses to create elevated states of mindfulness. She views the combination of the two as reintroducing a concept that has been popular for centuries around the world.

Regardless of the style of yoga you choose to practice, exploring different options and classes is a fun way to learn about yoga while reaping the benefits for body, mind and soul. š