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Get in Shape with Yoga

Yoga instructor Carolyn Barrows demonstrates the tree pose, which helps improve concentration and balance by strengthening the arches of the feet and outer hips. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

MARBLE FALLS — Those who want the challenges of a cardiovascular workout and to tone their bodies don’t have to join a gym, run on a treadmill, lift weights, or swim laps in a pool.

They can take up yoga.

Yoga teacher Carolyn Barrows at Restorative Skin Care in Marble Falls said there are a variety of yoga classes available for different body types and mobility levels. Some are more sedentary, while others are intense.

Best of all, yoga doesn’t require the use of special equipment.

“There’s chair yoga, and you can use your own body weight,” Barrows said. “I think yoga is in a place that people can find a match component.”

Barrows especially enjoys the mental side of yoga, which calls for people to slow down “and be more aware of thoughts.”

She noted that some of the world’s highest-paid athletes practice yoga, particularly during the offseason, because it improves strength, balance, and heart health and helps prevent injuries. Those athletes want to remain in shape without putting their bodies through the punishment of higher-intensity workouts.

“(Yoga is) more complementary,” Barrows said. “You will see that more and more. Yoga has been a physical and mental discipline.”

She also has worked with people who are losing the ability to move because of an accident, age, arthritis or multiple sclerosis. She recalled a yoga student who suffered a hip injury from an accident. Her doctors were happily surprised at how quickly the student recovered from the injury. The reason was because of her years of practicing yoga, Barrows said, noting the injured area had been worked through the discipline so it was strong and protected.

“I enjoy helping them on their way back to the life they enjoyed,” she said. “You can maintain or gain muscle according to your fitness goals. You just figure out your special set of circumstances you can live with and have your best movements. It’s encouraged to go at your own pace.”

Barrows dispelled the belief that yoga doesn’t provide the challenges of a cardio or weightlifting workout. She recalled being one of several women in their 50s asked to demonstrate yoga movements to a group of high school football players. After a few minutes, the women could still keep the pace of the instructor, while the boys fell behind and couldn’t catch their breaths.

“We women ran circles around those boys,” she said with a grin.

Those who want to begin the discipline should seek out a knowledgeable instructor, Barrows said. If they can’t afford to take a class, she said some of the free online videos are pretty good.

“People should start with good instruction,” she said. “Doing postures right is so important.”

She began practicing yoga at age 18 and said it’s the only form of exercise she has found that has kept her in shape over the years. She’s tried many sports, she said.

“I can find a way to include yoga in my life and stay fit,” she said. “I don’t even get bored.”

Barrows said the discipline is a wonderful way to exercise and great for any age, regardless of whether people play recreational sports or haven’t participated in years.

“Yoga is really available to anyone wherever they are,” she said. “If they’ve never been prone to working out, there’s a place they can begin.”

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