Why You Should Be Doing Yoga

Article by Make The Days Count Contributor Stefanie  Johnson

 

Yoga.  This small word has the power to raise many thoughts, feelings, and preconceptions.  Some see it as symbolic of a specific lifestyle and religion, something only the affluent can afford to do, or harped about by “health nuts.”  True, in the past the media and others have painted yoga in this way.  However as an exercise program yoga is for everyone. 

 

Yoga is now widely available to all, regardless of creed, cash, fitness, or diet.  Everywhere you go, there are DVDs, classes, books, articles, advice, and props.

 

No matter who you are, or what your fitness or financial situation is, yoga and the yoga mindset can improve the quality of your life, and you should be doing it as a part of your overall exercise program. 

 

Yoga has ancient.  In many ways you can compare yoga to martial arts such as karate, because it teaches self-control and a certain mindset, but without any hint of aggression.  Yoga is excellent for people of all ages, but children who are exposed to it early could particularly benefit from it.

 

With yoga, just as with anything else, it’s important to know what your level of fitness is.  Just like other exercise programs, common sense rules when starting out.  Yoga offers benefits for all levels, but if you are a beginner and enter an advanced class, you are setting yourself up for a bad and painful experience.   Introductory classes are meant to build on a foundation of knowledge about the different stretching and strength positions … and also begin building flexibility.  So always ask questions and do your homework.  There are different branches of yoga, and knowing the difference between them can dramatically change the quality of your experience.

 

There are many benefits from doing yoga.  Depending on the kind you do, it can burn a good amount of calories, helping weight loss efforts.  It can also improve muscle mass.  Breathing exercises can aid lung capacity, and the mindset yoga teaches can help with diet and willpower.  Yoga can also decrease your stress and help to promote an inner sense of calm.

 

Regardless of whether you choose to take classes or go it alone with books and DVDs, here is an overview of the main types of yoga, and a bit about what to expect from them:

 

Ashtanga

This is a fast paced yoga, demanding practice, best for intermediate and advanced students.  It focuses on doing specific movements very quickly and fluidly, and can be quite aerobic. 

 

Bikram

Also known popularly as Hot Yoga.  Absolutely not for beginners or people in uncertain health.  If you take a Bikram class, make certain it is certified and bring your own mat.  Classes are conducted in a room heated to over 95 degrees.  It is believed that doing yoga in such an environment helps to purify the body of toxins.   

 

Hatha

Excellent for those new to yoga.  Hatha is slow, gentle, and focuses on stretching and meditation.  It is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to the postures and mindset.

 

Kundalini

Kundalini is good for all fitness levels.  The spinal series is wonderful if you have a tight or achy back, and the meditations between exercises are very relaxing.

 

Vinyasa

Most yoga classes and DVDs, unless otherwise labeled, are Vinyasa.  This practice focuses on the flow of movement, moving from one pose to another smoothly.  Vinyasa is very diverse and contains many poses, but the most well-known series is known as the sun salutation.

 

If you have limited flexibility or are just starting out, consider using props such as foam blocks or a strap.  If you have sensitive knees, you can even use a simple towel as cushioning.  These props can ease you into poses more gently, and get your body strong enough to eventually do them without extra aid.

 

You should practice yoga on an empty stomach.  Also, though pregnant women are encouraged to do yoga, there are some poses are not appropriate, especially twisting ones.  So if you are pregnant and doing yoga, make sure you are educated about these poses.

 

Yoga will improve your life.  You should do it.  Set the time aside, give it a try, and open yourself up to all the wonderful things it can bring to you.

 

“Never hurry.  Take plenty of exercise.  Always be cheerful.  Take all the sleep you need. You may expect to be well.”
-James Freeman Clarke

 

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Posted on 18 December, 2008 in Balance, Fitness & Health
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One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Lisa
    December 19th, 2008 at 1:55 pm #

    Stefanie, Thanks for the article. I have been thinking about starting yoga with the new year as a part of my 2009 resolutions, and this helps me to know what to look for. I had been considering Bikram, but I think I’ll start off with another class until I get used to it!

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