Yoga

Approaches to yoga are spiritual and secular, but they all have one thing in common: participants learn whole-body practices for excellent health. There is so much more to yoga than learning how to breathe and to stretch or holding awkward, seemingly impossible poses. Try out a free introductory class at a fitness center. Here are some benefits and varieties of yoga.

Proper Breathing

The vast majority of people breathe naturally without thinking about it. They wouldn’t be alive if they stopped. How many people breathe properly when they exercise? Most individuals would have to admit they often hold their breath during exertion and let it out when they finish a difficult move. They hold their breath while tightening their abdominal muscles because they suck their tummies in when they hold their breath.

In yoga, teachers promote healthy breathing so you won’t get dizzy when you work out. They are also concerned about oxygen flow to the muscles. When muscles don’t receive enough oxygen, they tighten up, are prone to injury, and they are simply less compliant (flexible) than otherwise.

Breathe out as you adopt a difficult pose then breathe in again when you are finished. If you are holding a pose, breathe slowly through the nose and out through your mouth. Relax, don’t hyperventilate. Your muscles and organs will thank you.

Core Support

Another fundamental concern in the practice of yoga is core support. Your core is the belt of muscles around your back, abdomen, and also through your floor (the muscles you use to stop yourself from peeing). When these muscles are weak, injury is very likely whether you are engaged in exercise or simply lifting a laundry basket.

During standing poses, a teacher will emphasize the need to hold in your middle and tuck your pelvis under, creating a tighter belt of security around your lower back. As you become stronger and more proficient at yoga, your posture will naturally improve when you walk, sit, run, etc.

Simple Yoga

Anusara was developed as a way to fit yoga around women rather than the other way around. If your body is out of shape and inflexible right now, give Anusara a try and discover how much more flexible muscles will become in just a few months of gentle poses and stretches that don’t push you too far.

Yoga is never supposed to truly hurt and no teacher wishes to see a student get into a pose he needs paramedics to help him get out of. The atmosphere might be lightly spiritual but, more likely, intense spiritual elements will be left out and participants will be encouraged to concentrate on their bodies or a deity of their choice.

Hot Yoga

By contrast, this is a sweaty, calorie burning session not for the faint of heart. It’s still non-impact work but you’ll need a towel: the temperature is turned right up.

Ashtanga

This is the type of yoga frequently featured in beginners’ weight loss videos and features a series of repeated moves with add-ons. They include Mountain Pose, Sun Salutation, and other simple moves designed to realign the body after other more strenuous poses. You’ll be up and down but the moves flow naturally.

Yoga for Recovery

If you suffer from chronic pain, are limited by a physical condition, or you are seeking to recover from injury using safe methods, recovery or “healing” yoga is suitable. Various classes and video tapes promote various techniques and moves targeting different parts of the body. This is a bit like elements of Ashtanga and Anusara but specifically designed for coping with lower back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and more.

Hatha Yoga

This is a classic practice which combines all elements of traditional yoga. It is not a blend of yoga plus Pilates or free weights. Hatha is not specifically for recovery, weight loss, or re-entry into the fitness world. If you like variety, this is the place to be. One warning, though: many studios promote a spiritual element. Consumers who don’t feel comfortable with being asked to identify their inner Goddess or focus on their chi will either have to tune it out or try various classes until they settle on one that lacks these elements.

Blended Yoga

There is a common trend these days to mix yoga with other activities such as lifting free weights, Pilates, kick boxing, and low-impact aerobics. Some practitioners utilize the moves but incorporate a different spiritual belief, Christianity being the primary one. All this really shows is the efficacy of certain yoga moves no matter what your regular exercise routine is. The stretching is suitable for everyone and stretching is essential to any well-rounded routine. Moves involving large muscle groups and long-held poses will even have a person panting and his muscles burning. Various parts of the practice even challenge hard-core athletes.

Yoga
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Todd Stohrdahl

Todd Stohrdahl keeps a close eye on fitness topics and will never turn down an opportunity to play competitive sports. He's a fierce competitor and brings his "hustle and muscle" mentality to our editorial team.