yoga

Keep calm, go to class, and...stretch on? Yep, the school year has begun, but the stress doesn't have to. Enter September, National Yoga Month.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services dedicated this month of September to educate people on the numerous health benefits of yoga. For those that already swear by yoga, the month is an epic celebration of all things yogi.

Many who have never tried yoga are wary due to false perceptions. It is not a religion. It is not only for the flexible. And no, it doesn't require you wear tie-dye and join a hippy commune.

These stereotypes block so many people from giving yoga a fair shot, which robs them of their true potential--both physically and spiritually. National Yoga Month is all about overcoming these stereotypes so that yoga's true embodiment is revealed -- a powerful vehicle for self-improvement.

Just ask Mercy Malick, A Hatha Flow yoga instructor for more than 10 years. She explains what makes yoga so valuable: "Yoga is the one & only physical discipline in which the participant can continue to improve forever!  In any rigorous sport you can name, ability diminishes with age, yet there are yoga teachers in their nineties who can do things I haven’t mastered yet."

Malick refers to the physical poses in yoga, called "asana," one of the eight limbs of yoga. Indeed, this aspect of yoga will help you get that dream (and pain-free) body, but its other advantages are just as important.

Yoga extends beyond the mat into all areas of life. It teaches what we often neglect in today's hectic, competitive world: self-love, balance, and mindfulness, among much more. Early into a yogi's journey, he or she realizes the triviality of external experiences. Ironically, the stronger this lesson is embraced, the more beautiful the yogi becomes. Yoga nourishes an inner beauty that radiates for all to see.

So, how to get to that noble point? You should start by attending one of the many free yoga classes offered in studios across the nation. In honor of National Yoga Month, several studios are offering free classes and discounts! Click here for a great roundup.

If you are already well-versed in yoga, teach someone else how to-- spread the joy. You could also make a donation to the Give Back Yoga Foundation to support certified yoga teachers so that they may deliver yoga to 10,000 prisoners, veterans, and other under-resourced populations.

The month culminates in a global celebration on September 30 at 7 PM, at which point everyone is invited to participate in a worldwide yoga, mindfulness, and meditation practice. Attend a class, practice yoga on your own, meditate, or simply be mindful and conscious in whatever you do, wherever you go. Billions of good vibes will be coursing through Mother Earth's veins.

Hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, yogis and peacemakers -- it's gonna be a doozy.

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