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Activity is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. I thought I was on the right track, balancing all my time between cardio and weight training, until I felt like I literally hit a wall. With my constant aches and seeing no progression, I knew I had to make a change. I finally tried yoga and quickly discovered that it plays a vital part towards building my strength and vitality. Here is how yoga has changed my body in three ways.

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Flexibility and Lengthening: I love my weight training but I noticed I was beginning to hunch over and my shoulders were becoming more rounded. Sure, weights made me stronger, but I felt like I should be ringing a bell on a high tower. Not a good trade in my book. By incorporating an hour of yoga every week, I noticed a significant improvement in my posture as well has a decrease in soreness after a strength training session. Between the combination of increasing strength and flexibility in my muscles, I started feeling more graceful rather than a French hunchback bell ringer.

Breathing: Honestly, I’ve been breathing on my own for the past 38 years and never need to remind myself but, when I joined the fitness world, it seemed like every instructor loved to remind me to breathe. I didn’t understand why it was important, other than the fact that they didn’t want me to pass out in their classes! Yoga taught me that breathing is an essential part in participating in various activity. In yoga, I learned how to breathe correctly to help rev my body up or slow my body down according to the energy level I need. Yoga and breathing properly taught me not only to listen to my body but to understand my body’s needs so I can make the small changes in order to achieve success.

>> Read more: 6 Yoga Poses to Instantly Boost Your Mood

Self Awareness: Yoga forces me to concentrate on my body rather than on the activity at hand. The poses require mental focus and an understanding of my body’s strengths and limits. With this new self-awareness, I can quickly tell if I have an injury such as a tweaked muscle and need to back off or if my body is feeling great so I can confidently push a little more during a training.

>> Try these 8 Yoga Poses to Prevent Injury [VIDEO].

There are so many more benefits of yoga. I will admit that it took me a long time to get on the yoga bandwagon. I was intimidated with the gravity-defying, pretzel-like contorting poses. My body just doesn’t bend like that; it doesn’t have to. And neither does your body in order for you to have a place with yoga. Yoga is about personal growth and discovering our bodies’ amazing capabilities. I learned through yoga that I need to be working with my body instead of fighting against it. We make a pretty good team. We both yearn for health, strength and vitality.

I hope you experience many benefits yoga has to offer!