Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Benefits of Yoga

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by: Michael Russell
Yoga is more than just physical exercise; it is achieving a state of mind. For millions of people, yoga is a spiritual journey, one that has a number of health benefits. Yoga can help you fulfil
yourself both spiritually and can help you hone your physical self into the best you can be. Thus, the benefits of practicing it are three-fold; you will become spiritually enlightened in addition to enjoying the physical benefits of yoga, which include improvement of both mind and body.

First, let us examine the physiological changes that occur when one takes up the practice of yoga. When you begin practicing it, you will find that your balance improves, your blood pressure will lower significantly, your heart will work more proficiently and your endurance will also increase. Likewise, your muscles will strengthen, your flexibility level increases, your range of motion will ultimately improve; and you will find that you have better immunity against communicable diseases. Also, you will find that you achieve more restful and restorative sleep and your physique will eventually display your new, healthful status.

Additionally, along with the myriad physical benefits derived from practicing yoga, you will be equally pleased with the psychological benefits. For instance, yoga can reduce the instances in which you experience anxiety or depression, can improve your attention and concentration span, can help you manage unruly emotions, your learning abilities and your memory will improve, and your self-esteem and level of confidence will improve. This, in addition to the physical benefits produced by the practice of yoga make it worthwhile, but there are even more benefits to partaking in this form of exercise.
Practicing yoga also has a number of biochemical advantages including lower glucose levels, lower HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, a higher haemoglobin count, a reduction in the level of sodium in your body, a lowering of white blood cells in your body, a lowering of triglycerides, and an increase in certain vitamin levels in your system. Plus, through the practice of yoga, you will find that your alertness improves, your focus increases, you reduce symptoms of fatigue and your entire well-being is affected.

There are a variety of ways in which you can introduce yourself to the practice of yoga. You can take a public class or conversely you can order instructional videos and books to study at home or with friends. You can also find information online. Further, there are even some Yogic schools and you might be able to locate one in your local area.

Regardless of whether or not you decide to take classes or if you decide to learn Yoga on your own, you should always pay a visit to your physician for a full checkup before you engage in any new exercise regimen. Also, you must bear in mind that when you start to practice yoga you should do so slowly. It serves no one if you strain a muscle when you over exercise and you can incur serious and permanent injury if you are not careful.

Yoga for a Beginner


Yoga for a beginner is an exciting time when you start to discover all of the wonderful benefits that yoga has to offer. When you first begin yoga, there are several things you can do to make your experience positive.

The following are ideas you might want to consider as you begin your yoga journey.

Types of Yoga

It is a good idea when you are doing yoga as a beginner, that you choose a style that matches your fitness level, personality, and health condition (see article below). Review what each type of yoga has to offer so you can choose a class that is best suited to you.

Yoga Instruction

Yoga for a beginner is best practiced under the supervision of an experienced teacher. It is important to maintain proper body alignment. A good teacher will make corrections so you don’t injure yourself and can also offer modifications if you have any physical restrictions. A teacher can also help you go a little deeper into a pose so you get the most from your practice.

You can find beginner yoga classes at many studios and gyms. Often the first class is free, so you can try different classes to see which ones you like best.

Yoga Attitude

An important point to realize about yoga for a beginner is that it is non-competitive. You are not trying to stretch farther than other people in the class or even keep up with them. You are paying attention to your body, and while you want to challenge it, you also want to listen to it. If, at any point during your practice, you begin to feel pain, either ease up a little, or come out of the pose. It is more important to honor your body than to try to do a pose perfectly.


The most important point in yoga for a beginner is to breathe correctly during the postures. In yoga you breathe in and out through your nose in order to allow yourself to breathe more deeply. Breathing helps you get relaxed and it also helps you move more deeply into the poses. If you feel an area of tension in your body, you can direct your breath to that spot to help it release. If, at any time during a pose, you find that you cannot breathe deeply, either ease up or come out of the pose. Breathing correctly is one of the most important goals in any yoga practice.

Yoga for a Beginner Kit

You might want to get a beginner yoga kit, which usually includes a sticky mat, a strap, and one or two yoga blocks. Some also include a yoga video so you can supplement your classes with practice at home.

Preparing for Class

Do not eat a heavy meal for several hours before your class. Yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach. Do drink water, both before and after your practice in order to keep your body well hydrated.

Yoga for a beginner is the first step on a journey of ever increasing self-awareness, a greater level of strength, endurance, and flexibility, and a deeper sense of peace. Have fun and enjoy everything along the way!

Which Type of Yoga is the Right
Choice for You?

You finally made the decision to practice yoga, but which style of yoga is the best one for you? There are many types of yoga, and while they usually have common elements, their focus is often quite different. If you have not been physically active in a long time, then one of the more gentle, slower moving styles may be right for you. If you are an athlete or are physically very fit, you might want to check out some of the more strenuous forms.

The following is a list of the more common yoga classes that you will find.

Hatha Yoga

Almost every style of yoga practiced in the west is some form of Hatha Yoga. It includes asanas, breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation. Each of the individual forms of yoga has a different emphasis, but classes usually include some combination of these elements.


This is a very fast paced, intense style of yoga. It follows a series of postures, which are always done in the same order and are connected with the breath. Each posture flows directly into the next one, so it is a very demanding practice. Ashtanga can be a good choice for physically fit individuals who like a challenge.


This type of yoga, which was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, is focused on proper body alignment. Poses are held for long periods of time and the movement from one posture to another is slower than some other styles. Props are often used to help maintain proper alignment, so Iyengar can be a good choice for those who have physical limitations. Since it focuses so much on correct body alignment, it is also a good starting point for beginners before they move into faster paced styles.


This style of yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury and is also known as “hot yoga”. Classes are held in rooms heated up to 100 degrees in order to allow your body to stretch without injury and release toxins. Practitioners move through a series of twenty-six postures, with each one being held for a period of time. This is a strenuous style and should be avoided by people with certain health conditions unless they get clearance from their medical professional.

Power Yoga

This is an intense workout that is a hybrid of Ashtanga, because the postures do not necessarily follow a particular sequence every time. Asanas move from one to another and they require a great deal of strength and stamina. Power yoga is best suited for athletic, well-conditioned individuals. It is my favorite type of yoga, and even though I am in excellent physical shape, I find it very challenging.


This type of yoga combines postures with specific breathing. Its purpose is to release the Kundalini energy that is housed at the base of the spine and allow it to move upward. Its ultimate goal is spiritual enlightenment.


This style of yoga is meditation in motion. Its goal is for the individual to gain a deeper inner awareness and to nurture a relationship with his or her body. Classes include gentle yoga postures with coordinated breathing and an emphasis on alignment. They also include an extended period of meditation and relaxation.


Created by Sri Swami Satchidananda, this type of yoga is very gentle. Classes have a greater emphasis on the meditative rather than the physical aspects of yoga. Integral Yoga is included in Dr. Dean Ornish’s program, which has been shown to reverse heart disease.


This style was created by T.K.V. Desikachar and is a therapeutic approach to yoga. It focuses on breathing in conjunction with movement. Viniyoga encourages modified postures to meet an individual’s specific needs and abilities. It would be a valuable style for someone who is dealing with an injury or other physical restriction.

Once you’ve chosen a specific type of yoga, it doesn’t mean you have to stay with it forever. You can choose to focus on another style for a while or mix several different types depending on how your mind and body feel. Whichever type you choose, the most important thing is to continue doing it on a regular basis so you can enjoy the rewards that yoga brings.

Yoga Injuries:
“Yoga Should Heal, Not Hurt”


So said Dr. Roger Cole in a recent presentation to the American College of Sports Medicine. His comment comes in light of an increasing level of yoga-related injuries, particularly to the knees, back, neck, shoulders, wrists and ankles.

The reason, he says, is that many yoga practitioners try to force themselves into difficult postures instead of keeping within their physical limits.

“The first rule of safety is to avoid forcing your body. Instead, practice with awareness, commonsense and self-respect,” emphasizes Cole. “Yoga is supposed to teach us not to compete or show off, but use focused attention, conscious effort and relaxation to achieve results.”

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