Christmas, summer vacation, and a New Year's celebration; 2019 is finally here, are you ready?

It is time to come up with some goals for 2019 and make this year our best year yet. It's time to make a plan that creates a healthy body and a stress-free mind for yourself and your family. Yoga is one of the best ways to help you achieve this. Yoga, as a way of life, is becoming more mainstream as people of all ages and abilities add the practice to their lives. Let's take a peek and see what yoga can do for you.

1. Improved flexibility:

Yoga gives you the range of motion to do the things you want to do so that you are spending less time hurt and more time having fun and taking care of business.

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By doing yoga regularly, you will increase your body's elasticity and flexibility. In a 2016 study on the impact of yoga on male college athletes, it was found that "10 weeks of practising yoga enhanced the flexibility in the actively training athletes while warm up stretching did not". The authors of the study concluded "that the practice of yoga as part of traditional training methods enhances the components of fitness that are the essential components of sports performance".

The best part about adding yoga to your life is that you don't need to be an athlete to feel its effects on a range of motion. Yoga is for anyone and it is never too late to start. By doing a regular yoga practice you will help create a supple body, so you can prevent those niggling injuries and feel refreshed and energised.

2. A Calm Mind:

Yoga has many physical effects but unlike other forms of exercise, yoga is very interested in exercising the mind and helping keep it calm. Stress is a major problem and yoga is well suited to help alleviate stress.

By doing yoga poses, focusing on your breathing, being in the present moment and adding short meditation practice, you can give stress the boot from your life. In a 2018 study in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, the authors concluded that "yoga has an effective role in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression [and] that [it] can be considered as complementary medicine" to medical treatment thus reducing the "medical cost per treatment by reducing the use of drugs". Yoga will give you the mental edge to make clear and calm decisions so that stress and anxiety are stopped before they even begin.

3. For overall health:

Yoga will help you become more flexible and provide mental clarity; it will also help improve your health and wellbeing. Many studies have shown yoga can reduce cholesterol, stop the progression of heart disease, reduce the symptoms of chemotherapy, fight depression, reduce chronic pain, and promote better sleep.

This is just a sample of some of the many things that yoga can do to help improve your health. By developing a regular practice of even 10-20 minutes a day, you can tap into these effects in your life. In my opinion, it is better to do 15 minutes five times a week than it is to do 60 minutes once a week. By coupling a yoga practice, with the other things you do to stay healthy, you can unlock these effects and improve your life.

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Yoga can help you achieve your goals for 2019 by enhancing your health, increasing your strength and flexibility, and reducing the symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.

All these benefits are just waiting for you to start, so make 2019 the year you set aside some time for yourself to develop a regular yoga practice. It will bring about positive change in your mind and body and help make this year, your best yet.

■ Tim Seutter is a firefighter, yoga teacher and manager at The Loft Yoga and Pilates Studio, Whangārei