The word “yoga” comes from Sanskrit with the dual meanings “union” and discipline.” By uniting meditation with a series of postures, practioners of this ancient Indian exercise seek to develop both mental and physical wellbeing.
Yoga is a great way to stretch, increase flexibility and strength, reduce tension, and relax body and mind. In our hectic, stressed out world, yoga has become a popular and widely accessible form of exercise. People of all ages can practice yoga and it can be adapted for people with disabilities or special needs.
Sign up for a yoga class, rent a video, or check your local T.V. listings for yoga programs. Learn the proper form for the postures (asanas). As with all exercise, regular daily sessions will provide the most benefit.
Yoga stretches and postures are accompanied by deep steady breathing that improves blood circulation, soothes the nervous system, and increases vitality. You will enjoy improved flexibility, a slight increase in muscle strength, good posture and long, lean muscles. Yoga also enables better physical balance and coordination. Additionally, a number of studies have shown that yoga can benefit those with joint pain or insomnia. Other benefits include stress reduction and an improved ability to concentrate.
While yoga doesn’t usually provide aerobic benefits, a new version known as Ashtanga or Power Yoga adds a cardiovascular element. Rather than the traditional series of slow, gentle stretches, Power Yoga employs a rigorous choreographed sequence of poses synchronized with your breathing to provide a hot, high-energy workout.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
If your muscles are particularly tight you may want to try some gentle stretches before your yoga class or workout. Otherwise yoga sessions generally include a warm-up and a cool-down. You may find it helpful however, to take a few minutes to clear your mind and to prepare mentally for class.
If you are practicing yoga at home or if your instructor does not include a cool-down, simply shake your body out and walk around for a few minutes.
Note: If you are practicing Power Yoga and your routine does not include a warm up or cool-down, remember to follow the same preparations you would for any aerobic activity. Gently stretch to prevent injury and start exercising slowly to warm your muscles. Allow a ten-minute period towards the end of your program in which you slow your motions and allow your heart rate to decrease. Stretch again to avoid soreness and to enhance flexibility.
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