Yoga is a form of exercise which focuses on promoting general health and well being by using techniques meant to not only better your body, but your mental well being as well. It is an ancient practice which came from India more than five thousand years ago. The word “Yoga” comes from the Sanskrit “yuj” which essentially translates to “Union”. By using breathing techniques and postures yoga promotes health, flexibility, and meditation. Practitioners claim it can be a very spiritual experience that links the body, mind and spirit.
Yoga has a reputation of being practiced by vegetarians and other groups with an almost cult status, but the truth is that it can help anyone improve their physical and mental well being. Anyone can take advantage of the benefits, whether you practice daily, or once a week. Greater strength and flexibility can be attained while improving the connection between your mind and body. We are presenting you with the basics so that it will be easy to incorporate this stress relieving practice into your life.
With there being many different styles of yoga, it might be hard to know exactly where to start. We are going to cover some of the most widely used, reputable styles enjoyed by people around the world in todays age.
- Bikram is also known as Hot yoga and is meant to be practiced in a warm environment. By performing the techniques in a room with temperatures around 95-100 degrees fahrenheit, you will sweat more intensely to both loosen muscles, along with purging toxins from the body.
- Lyengar is probably the most common form of yoga used in the United States. It is less intense than other forms, and is a great place to start. Poses are generally held for a longer duration, helping one to perfect their form while paying attention to the alignment of their body. It is easier to feel the effects these poses have on your body, and are recommended for all skill levels. Certain items such as blankets, belts, and blocks are easily incorporated to ensure that even beginners will gain from the experience.
- Hatha is another excellent style for beginners since it usually only involves the most basic of poses. With a slow, easy pace it is great for learning the techniques, while getting a feel for yoga in general.
- Ashtanga is more intense than some other styles. The fast pace goes from one pose to the next with constant movement, providing a somewhat cardiovascular workout. It can however, be adjusted to suit the needs of those with less experience.
- Vinyasa is an aggressive style with intense stretches. These are generally based on “sun salutations” meant to help regulate your breathing and movement in harmony.
- Tools for Yoga
- While there isn’t very many requirements when it comes to practicing yoga, certain tools will help to provide a better experience. Beginners should really look over this list and consider acquiring these props to help them stay comfortable, which leads to the desire to continue.
- Mats for yoga are essentially like any other workout mat. When used on a smooth floor they provide a thin cushion for which to apply your body weight. Yoga mats will have a non-slip surface, making it easier to hold poses for a longer duration. These are also designed to be easy to clean, as a proper routine will cause you to sweat. Any beginner should purchase one of these mats, and they can be found for around twenty dollars. Of course there are always higher end products out there, so select one which suits both your budget, and your requirements.
- Straps or belts for yoga provide assistance for the less flexible of us out there. While not as important as a mat, yoga straps help you to stay in proper form for a longer duration. There are many applications in a yoga routine for these straps, whether it be for seated stretches, or standing to help stretch to reach farther than without it. Experienced yoga practitioners will also use these to better improve flexibility as well.
- Wedges are exactly what they sound like. They provide a bit of protection against injury from over stretching. You can use these in sitting postures ( beneath the hips ) or standing and squatting ( under your heels ). Generally a yoga wedge will be built with soft material, minimizing the pressure on your body from your weight.
- Blocks or Bricks will assist a person in maintaining proper form when flexibility and strength for the routines is not yet achieved. The rectangles can be stacked to allow for different heights, allowing you to adjust to your specific needs. A simple example of their use would be if you cannot reach the floor when standing, the block can be the place your hands rest flat. This allows you to get the proper form even if you cannot reach the floor.
Yoga props are really simple which makes them very easy to incorporate into your routine. If you go to a gym or yoga class, there will most likely be props available for you to use. Being that they are affordable, most users purchase their own to use the routines within the comfort of their own home.
Simple Yoga Poses – Check out our page on poses here
Below you will find a brief description of many common poses, along with a link providing a pictorial demonstration by a reputable site.
● Airplane pose is a form which will help increase the strength in your lower back while stretching out your hamstrings.
● Camel Stretch otherwise known as the “cow pose” provides a good stretch for your chest and abdomen.
● Cat Stretch will help to increase flexibility in your neck and back.
● Childs Pose stretches your legs by focusing on the hips, ankles, and your thighs.
● Dolphin Pose stretches a great deal of your body, particularly the arms, hamstrings and calves.
● Gluteal and Outer Thigh Stretch also called the “Sage Twist Pose” works your hips and spine.
● Groin Butterfly or the “Bound Angle Pose” will stretch not only your inner thighs, but your groin and knees as well.
● Hamstring Stretch or the “Forward Standing Bend” stretches your lower body in general rather than just the hamstrings. Your thighs, knees, calves and hips will also feel the effects.
● Plank Pose is a good stretch for your upper body, stretching your abs, wrists, arms and your spine.
● Reverse Plank Pose stretches much like the Plank Pose, but focuses more on the lower back with some stretching of the hamstrings as well.
● Seated Forward Bend stretches your shoulders and spine, along with your hamstrings as well.
● Side Plank Pose will improve both your balance and coordination while improving your overall strength as well. Your legs, hamstrings, arms, wrist and abs will benefit from using this pose in your routine.
● T-Stand or the “Standing Splits” is a strength exercise which covers your glutes, hamstrings, and shoulders.
● Triangle Pose is a common technique used in many routines. This is because it provides benefits throughout your body, most notably the thighs, knees, ankles, hips and hamstring. Your groin will also be stretched along with your shoulders, chest and back.
● Upward Dog provides both stretching and strength conditioning. While your chest, shoulders and abs stretch, your spine, wrists and arms will be strengthened with this exercise.
Bringing Yoga into your Fitness Routine
Because of the many benefits it may be hard to determine just where yoga will fit into your routine. Many will wonder whether should it be treated as cardio, stretching or strength training. Yoga does indeed help in all of those areas but is generally not considered to be an end-all solution. This is especially true when it comes to strength and cardio training.
Yoga is best used to help ensure that your fitness routine is a well rounded, all encompassing experience that improves many different areas of your body. While certain forms of yoga will increase your heartrate, it will still not be as effective as an aerobic workout. The stretching routine will probably be the easiest way to incorporate yoga in your fitness program, while offering other benefits such as mental well being.
Here are a few websites that will help you to get started with yoga.
● Yogafinder.com is the largest yoga directory in the world. You can easily find classes and instructors local to you.
● YogaJournal.com is a great reference when looking for instructions and advice, as well as complete workouts.
● Gaiam.com is a well known retailer that provides high quality tools for use in yoga routines.
Remember that yoga is an ancient practice using very simple principles so it is very easy to work into a fitness program. You can practice as little as much as you prefer, whether it be daily, or just once a week. Individual sessions can also be as long or as short as you would like. Just be sure to understand all safety precautions so as not to overstretch yourself. When practicing alone in your home, there will not be an instructor there to watch you, so please, be careful. Great results can be achieved even with the shortest of workouts as long as you remain consistent.