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Although January has come and gone, it’s not too late to revive your well-intended New Year’s resolution that didn’t last longer than the first week of the year — or to officially make one now if you failed to do so before the ball made its inevitable descent. It’s March, and everything around us in the Queen City nods to a new beginning: The mercury is rising, Bradford Pear trees are in bloom and spring is in full swing. What better time than the present to start fresh and take a stab at something you’ve never tried before? And while you’re at it, consider making it a resolution that will better your mind, body and soul in the year to come through the practice of yoga and meditation.“Yoga and meditation,” you might be thinking. “What good does that do?” Trust me — I’ve been there and felt the same. These days, it seems like almost everyone is an aspiring yogi, learning to practice the discipline of meditation or seasoned in both. If you’re not convinced, take a look at a few Instagram “About Me” sections for proof and you’ll see many of those self-descriptors displayed. But are these habits actually beneficial or are they just a trend that the wellness community wants us to buy into? Verdict: It’s not all in our heads. The physical and physiological benefits of yoga and meditation are numerous — and outstanding. But it took a while for me to come to this realization.

For a while, I wrote yoga off as a workout that’s a waste of time, one that doesn’t truly generate results or something that isn’t really a workout at all. I just didn’t get the hype. However, all of my pre-conceived notions about the activity went out the window after I reluctantly — yet with a curious enthusiasm — attended my first yoga class last August, and I realized it wasn’t hype at all. I gained respect for yoga as the ancient discipline rooted in sacred Eastern spirituality that it is. After one hour of class, my muscles ached but my head felt clearer. And after just a few weeks of consistent weekly practice, my body began to transform and I noticed many positive changes to my overall state of being. My posture improved. I gained flexibility and strength — two things I’d never had before — and was filled with more energy than I had experienced in years. I felt accomplished. Aligned. At ease. And that was only the beginning.

 

  Don’t take my word for it, though. The art of yoga — or practice of it, rather —goes hand-in-hand with meditation and delivers many benefits for overall health and well-being. While engaging in yoga, one must be fully present — aware of their balance, body, breath and thoughts — at all times. The scientific studies speak for themselves: According to the American Osteopathic Association, yoga has been linked to reduced insomnia, circulatory health, muscle gain, weight reduction, an increased metabolism and improved respiratory health — just to name a few. On the other hand, the mental benefits of yoga are just as swoon-worthy. Practicing yoga can help individuals combat anxiety, manage stress or maintain focus — and can even assist with drug or alcohol addiction treatment. While there are many advanced yoga poses that are highly challenging, but — as with many things in    life — building your strength and form up to accomplish them is a process that will be well worth the discipline and dedication it takes. After all, it’s the journey — not the destination — that really counts. The secret is out: Yoga can be life-changing. In the past few years, Charlotte’s yoga scene has exploded, with many events and studios popping up that are dedicated to the practice. Whether you’ve never done yoga once in your life or have been a yogi for years, join your community in a collective pursuit of mindfulness by checking out the following events.

Yoga On Tap. Local brews and downward facing dog? If you struggle to keep your balance, you may want to wait until after the class is over to start sipping. Every Tuesday evening from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (OMB) hosts yoga classes to bring the Charlotte community together to encourage mindfulness and giving back to those in need. Each class is a mere $5 and helps raise awareness to benefit various local organizations, including non-profits and the arts. Plus, the cost to get in includes one of OMB’s best brews. Space fills up quickly, so be sure to get there a little early. For more information, visit www.yogaontap.com. Wanderlust 108 Festival. Get your zen on and head to the Charlotte Wanderlust 108 festival. The event will be held in the heart of downtown Charlotte – my personal favorite park, Romare Bearden – on April 8. Described as “the world’s only mindful triathlon” to challenge your body, mind and spirit, the half-day festival combines running, yoga and meditation into one memorable, inspiring event. Wanderlust 108 kicks off at 9 a.m. with a 5K – and don’t worry, you can feel free to walk if you’re not much of a runner. After the 5K, you’ll get to enjoy a dance party with hundreds of your new friends. Then, take the time to slow down and become mindful with 75 minutes of group yoga – accompanied by a DJ – and 30 minutes of group meditation. The festival also includes bonus tracks on a first come,first-serve signup basis, which include body painting, aerial yoga and slack-lining. After you become fully centered, be sure to check out the handmade goods in the Kula Market, the Wanderlust x adidas shop or grab a healthy bite to eat at one of the clean-eating food trucks or vendor tents. To learn more and purchase tickets, head to www.wanderlust.com/108.

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