There are no less than 224 official health observances on the 2009 calendar (Root Canal Awareness Week, in case you missed it, was in March). New this year is September's National Yoga Month, a testament to the fact that yoga isn't just hot — it's here to stay. Want to get in on the buffet of health benefits, from stress relief and better balance to stronger muscles and lower blood pressure? The trick is finding the right class, says Dr. Rachel Permuth-Levine, deputy director for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Office of Strategic and Innovative Programs and longtime yoga practitioner and teacher. "Be patient in your search because yoga's main goal is to calm us down and keep our minds from racing, something we all need." Her advice:
- Ask other beginners for recommendations.
- Look for classes labeled "beginner," "gentle" or "therapeutic."
- Talk to the instructor about your goals, fitness level and any injuries or conditions like back problems, high or low blood pressure, glaucoma or ear problems.
- If you can, do a fundamental class series aimed at teaching proper form.
- Watch a beginner DVD to prep yourself before trying.
- If you find yourself struggling, ask the teacher for a referral to a more appropriate class.