Winter, with its bitter temperatures and icy conditions, provides a perfect excuse to ditch that outdoor fitness regimen.
Slacking, however, may come at a price: mental and physical health.
If your stress level has hit an all-time high and your strength and flexibility are worse than you can ever remember, it may be time to break out of hibernation.
Yes, getting your mind and body in shape does take some effort, but the quest toward inner peace and muscle tone doesn't have to include hours of slaving at a fancy or expensive gym.
Some local fitness professionals, including wellness coach Al Bacchus, say that folks who make slight adjustments to their daily or weekly routines can drastically improve their quality of life.
"When it comes to fitness, any small change will help," said Bacchus, who divides his time between his wellness coaching company, his teaching gig at Columbia Union College in Takoma Park and his role as a member of the Maryland State Advisory Council on Physical Fitness.
"I advise both the students I teach and older people in my workshops to work out with a series of simple stretches," said Bacchus, "but in fact, you don't even have to take a formal ... class."
For those who do want a structured activity, Bacchus said that group yoga lessons may be a good choice.
The ancient practice of yoga, which combines meditation, stretching and core muscle building, is based on smooth movements that can help maintain flexibility and prevent injuries, he said.
Local yoga instructor Joseph Van Arsdale agreed and added that the contortions and stances also unify the mind, body and spirit to create a feeling of inner peace.
"The yoga postures enmesh with the body well, so it's very gentle to the soul." And though he noted that some advanced techniques require developed agility and balancing skills, Van Arsdale said that beginning yoga classes, which focus on fundamentals of breathing, posture and form, are a perfect re-introduction to fitness for those who have slacked for weeks, months or years.
"A level-one class is very suitable for people right off the street. Yoga is never foreign; the body accepts it," he said.
The following is a LIVE guide to some local yoga centers. Class offerings and times change with instructor availability; call each center for the most up-to-date information.
Ahimsa Yoga Center
3000 Chestnut Ave., Suite 15, Baltimore.
This center offers beginner, intermediate and advanced yoga classes. Kundalini, ashtanga, gentle kripalu and ahimsa styles, among others, are taught in morning and evening classes. Pilates, breathing and tai chi courses are also available.
For more information, call 410-662-8626, or visit www. ahimsayogacenter.com.
Bikram Yoga Baltimore
40 Cranbrook Road, Cockeysville.
Bikram, or "hot" yoga, is taught at this Baltimore County location. Classes are offered in the mornings and evenings.
For more information, call 410-683-YOGA, or visit www.bikramyogabalti more.com.
Midtown Yoga Center
107 E. Preston St., Baltimore
Drop-in and beginner students are welcome at the Midtown Yoga Center, where hot, hatha and prenatal yoga classes are on the schedule.
For more information, call 410-889-4732, or visit www.mid townyoga.org.
914 Bay Ridge Road, Suite 211, Annapolis.
This center offers a wide variety of classes for all abilities. In addition, specialty classes, including prenatal and women's yoga, are available.
For more information, call 410-268-3838, or visit www.marylandyoga.com/ayc.htm.
Greater Baltimore Yoga Center
9628 Deereco Road, Timonium.
Weekend and weekday/night classes are available at this Timonium location. "Yoga Over 50" and "Gentle Yoga" are two of the specialty programs offered.
For more information, call 410-560-2980, or visit www.marylandyoga.com/gby.htm.
Northern Maryland's Inchworm Yoga has increased its program facilities to include spots at Hood College, downtown Frederick, Jefferson and Brunswick. Power yoga and gentle yoga classes are available at the various locations.
For more information, call 866-BUG-YOGA, or visit www.inchwormyoga.com.
12-A W. Aylesbury Road, Timonium.
Classes for all abilities are available at Susquehanna Yoga, including instruction in the ashtanga and iyengar styles of yoga. Tai chi, meditation and breathing (pranayama) classes are also available.
For more information, call 410-308-9950, or visit www. syoga.com.