The benefits of a yoga practice in your life can be truly transformational. Yoga transforms even fit people. So what is yoga and why is it so amazing? Yoga in its most basic form is a series of poses coordinated with breathing. The practice of yoga teaches the student to listen to his or her body.
For me the most profound benefits involve sharpening my ability to “live in the now”. Yoga makes us better able to enjoy the moment whether it’s healthy, plant-based foods, walking in nature, or being with friends.
Yoga Mind, Body & Fitness
Although the practice of yoga has become a part of popular culture these days, popping up everywhere from health clubs to dance studios throughout the United States, yoga does not have its origins in the American physical fitness industry. India gave birth to both the literature and the technique of yoga. Yoga’s popularity in today’s fitness industry signals a whole new trend in how we view exercise. It also represents mind-body fitness, reflecting the recognition and application of the mind and body connection.
Yoga has come to describe a means of mind-body unity and a method of discipline.
In order to practice yoga effectively, you need to have a working knowledge of the fundamental principles of posture, movement and breathing technique. It’s very important to find a teacher (and style) that’s right for you.
The following guidelines will help you choose the method suitable for you:
- Consider your own needs and limitations
- Consider your present physical condition
- Take classes in different styles until you find one that appeals to you
- Ask the teacher about his or her credentials and training
- Find a method that works for you, and stick with it
Yoga is something you do according to your own needs and capabilities, not as a competitive sport.
This ancient practice is the union of all parts of yourself and is a ritualized effort to become a powerful,
intensely strong person.
The more traditional benefits of yoga include:
Yoga poses act on all parts of the body to increase flexibility, lubricating the joints, tendons, and ligaments. Athletes and non-athletes who practice yoga have fewer injuries. Even very gentle poses have been shown to increase flexibility in seemingly unrelated parts of the body.
Massaging the Organs
The benefits of yoga extend to the internal organs. Yoga practice stimulates and “massages” the internal organs. Often yoga students experience a kind of sixth sense for disease. Consistent yoga is also thought to protect internal organs against disease in the first place.
Yoga causes blood to flow throughout your body while exercising, ridding the body of toxins from every possible portion of the body. A detoxified body can lead to a longer life span, as well as more energy and faster, sustainable weight loss. Sound familiar? Yes yoga is another way to purify your body.
Even gentle yoga poses increase muscle strength and tone. Learning the proper breathing and focusing on the core in order to sustain the poses manifests in long, lean muscles and a strong, sexy core.
Yoga helps in pain management for many chronic pain sufferers.
The benefits of doing yoga are even most profound for calming the mind and spirit. Yoga was originally developed centuries ago to facilitate meditation. The monks incorporated yoga to keep their bodies challenged while focusing their minds in deep concentration. The resulting harmony of mind and body constitutes the real benefit of a yoga practice. Yoga practice is both physically challenging and invigorating, the result of the body and mind being in sync.
How to Start Yoga?
So as you can see the yoga benefits for both the body and the mind are astounding. What’s more Yoga is easy to learn, requires none or very little equipment and is very soothing as it tones your body. It helps to improve your mental fitness through meditation as well.
The origins of yoga began well over 3,000 years ago in India. It comes from Sanskrit, and it means to “yoke,” or bring together the mind, body, and spirit. There are many types and styles and you can easily find classes near you or learn in the privacy of your own home.
Different Types of Yoga
It’s a good beginning for the basic poses. This encompasses the physical types of yoga. It is usually a leisurely pace and mild.
It has a strong accent on physical alignment with a positive philosophy. Its belief is in the intrinsic good of all life forms.
This emphasizes chanting and spiritual teachings. These are usually physically intense classes.
This is a mild practice that includes breathing exercises, meditation and chanting.
This is based on five principles. Correct exercise inclusive of 12 poses; correct breathing; proper relaxation, diet, positive thinking and meditation.
This style describes the precise way your body should be positioned in each pose. This is to maximize the benefits and avoid injury.
The importance is breathing in combination with physical movement. This is to free energy in the lower body so it can move up through your body.
More Yoga Benefits!
Yoga provides many health benefits, the Techniques for Breathing and Relaxation lower your blood pressure, increase your cardiovascular health, and releases your stress as you learn relaxation. Meditation is calming to the mind and gives you emotional balance and mental clarity.
It improves your flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina. Another one of the great yoga benefits is that it also helps you lose and/or maintain your weight.
Don’t think Yoga can make you sweat? Then try The Biggest Loser’s – Weight Loss Yoga. This is one of my favorite workout DVDs for yoga. Bob really does make you work, and you can make you work 25-45 minutes long with 3 different level options.
Finding A Good Yoga Class Near You
If you prefer individual attention for your specific needs, a class may be the best solution for you.
Questions you should ask:
- What are the instructor’s qualifications?
- How long has the instructor been teaching?
- Can the instructor work with your specific needs if you have any health issues?
- Is the class geared towards new students?
- What do you need to bring to class?
There are many poses and in some classes you may learn anywhere from 20 to 30 poses.
Inexpensive Yoga Clubs
Inexpensive yoga classes are offered at most YMCAs. Yoga studios are popping up everywhere. Even personal yoga instruction in your home or office is possible. Yoga tapes are a way for busy Moms to practice yoga. The benefits of it require a particular body alignment, so most people will benefit from at least a few classes with a live instructor in order to learn the proper form.
If you are looking for easy step-by-step instructions to some classic yoga poses then you can try here.
Prefer To Learn Yoga At Home?
One of the great Yoga benefits is that you can practice it right in the comfort of your own home. An excellent DVD is available by Ravi Singh and Ana Brett, Kundalini Yoga for Beginners & Beyond. Ravi and Ana are well known in the yoga world and Ana is a delight to watch. This DVD is great for beginners and intermediate. You can progress at your own pace.
It features two twenty-five minute workouts that you can do together or individually. The instruction is clear and it’s very motivating with excellent music. This was actually recommended to me by a yoga therapist and I highly recommend it.
I also recommend having a good exercise mat. I prefer the 1/4″ thickness as it provides enough padding for sitting without throwing your balance off. I like additional length, so I choose one longer than the standard size.
Schedule The Time In Your Day
Working out at home can give you an advantage to scheduling time slots that work better for you. It also gives you that extra time it would take to get dressed and drive to a class.
To get the most out of it, you’ll need to do it consistently for about 6 weeks, at least 3 days a week. The exercises will leave you feeling invigorated, yet relaxed and calm.
For many it’s a philosophy and for others it’s a spiritual practice. It serves many purposes.
Yoga Clothing and Equipment
No you don’t need to spend a fortune on special yoga clothes or equipment. Any athletic clothing that permits a full range of motion works. Keep in mind most of the poses require stretching and bending. Loose fitting pants or capris, or running pants, with a sports bra and lycra top work well.
Most yoga facilities require their students to bring their own “sticky mats”. These are thin mats that roll up and are made from a rubberized material. They are available for about $10 in any sporting goods store, or even Target. Other equipment such as blocks, straps, and blankets are nice to have but often are available at yoga studios or Y’s. Not everyone uses these, so take a few classes before deciding which optional equipment makes yoga more comfortable for you.
Are you convinced to give yoga a try? Once you are hooked you will wonder how you ever lived without it! Let us know in the comments how you go with your asanas!