FEEL GREAT FOR SPORT: Ignore the stereotype and give yoga a go

WINDY CITY: Our weekly columnist Paul Gough stumbled across this open air yoga class in Chicago last weekend

WINDY CITY: Our weekly columnist Paul Gough stumbled across this open air yoga class in Chicago last weekend

First published in Sport

Somehow I almost missed it.

I just happened to be walking by and it only caught my attention when I heard, “Namaste Yoggies” over a very loud tannoy booming around the park.

It was a gathering of over 2,500 men, women and children taking part in a very relaxing open air yoga class.

A hot one, too. It was over 90 degrees in Grant Park, Chicago, USA, where I happened to be last weekend. I was there talking at a fitness industry seminar when I stumbled upon this epic yoga class.

Before the picture explanation and yoga insight, a few things about Chicago first: If you like to keep fit and active, and love to be around people who are just the same, then you need to take a trip to the Windy City. It's an exercise enthusiast’s dream.

Picture a huge lake, swimming lanes in it, cycle, running and walking tracks created around it, and parks aplenty where you're encouraged to play things like football, basketball and baseball until the wind picks up.

In winter it's freezing, yet all of this still goes on, and when the sun comes out, they add in a bit more - like open air yoga classes.

Now, it's true that yoga is more popular and much more accepted in the big cities, as if it's the trendy thing to do. It’s even seen as ‘cosmopolitan’ and considered a fad. But it really isn't and if you've ever thought about giving it ago, I'd strongly urge you to consider it.

It's a simple exercise routine that you can quickly learn to do on your own. Even just doing 20 minutes per day of the stretching and posture exercises involved will see a significant and positive difference in how healthy you look and feel.

If you're aged 40 and above, I'd go so far as to say there's nothing more important that you should be doing daily, than a stretching programme such as the one you'll learn at yoga.

Some of the top players in world football cite yoga as the main reason they're able to play on well into their late 30s. Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville are just two examples.

It works because every day you wake up, you're actually getting a little stiffer and a tiny bit smaller. Nothing you'll ever notice on a daily basis, but over time, it creeps up on us all. Doing yoga is one of the best ways to combat it.

It makes your muscles more flexible, your joints more supple and importantly, you’re less likely to suffer from things like neck and shoulder pain, lower back pain, hamstring injuries and even Achilles pain.

Now, it might look a bit strange, as per the picture, and at first it might even feel a bit strange, but for most people I speak to about yoga, once they've done it for six weeks, that's it. They're hooked on how great doing it regularly makes them feel.

I can speak from my own experience that if I do it first thing on a morning, my whole day seems to be a little bit easier. Give it a go and see how you get on.

There aren't many people who won't benefit from doing it, so chances are you will.

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