By Jenn Sturiale
"Oh -- I'm sorry, what did you say?"
It happens to the best of us while engaged in a conversation (even an interesting one): We suddenly snap back to the present, then realize we have no idea what was just said. Our mind wandered away and went... where? Most likely it skipped off to the past or the future. It doesn't just happen during conversations. While watching a movie, we'll start compiling a mental grocery list. Or while walking the dog, we'll replay a conversation we had...
"When you practice the asanas [postures] of yoga, you gain more respect for your body," says New York yoga instructor Anita Goa. "The key element of yoga is breathing. When we learn how to breathe properly -- when we are more aware of our breathing -- we are able to connect our mind and our body."
Goa says yoga gives us control over our mind, and when we have that control, we consciously ask ourselves, "Is this good for me?" In other words, "Do I really need this piece of pizza?"
"When we get to know our body, we automatically want to choose food that's good for us," says Goa.
Many people approach yoga as a form of exercise, says Anne O'Brien, a yoga instructor in Sonoma, Calif., but they soon find that yoga offers a deeper connection to their own body.
"After you take a yoga class, you feel so good that it carries through to the rest of your life and you wind up incorporating it into your lifestyle," she says. "You find that you're not doing yoga because you have to do it to lose weight, but you want to do it because it feels good."
In addition to "nourishing your soul" so that you want to eat what's good for you, yoga has actual physiological benefits as well, Goa says. The various postures are good for your digestive and elimination systems, helping to speed food through the body. And the different poses, with names such as adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog), navasana (boat pose), and virabhadrasana (warrior pose), strengthen and tone your muscles. And as you probably know by now, muscle burns calories better than fat does.