“Health is not a mere absence of disease. It is a dynamic expression of life – in terms of how joyful, loving and enthusiastic you are.” ~ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
True health includes physical fitness as well as mental acuity and emotional balance. Simply stated, yoga can be considered mindful exercise. Breath work, an essential element of yoga, can help relax not only tight overworked muscles, but also anxious and overstressed minds. Yoga goes beyond simple stretching by working joints and muscles through all ranges of motion and activating little used muscles that support larger muscles, ensuring well rounded muscle development.
More and more athletes are discovering the benefits of yoga. Athletic injuries can often be linked to a lack of flexibility, poor core strength and misalignment. Adding yoga to your exercise routines can help enhance your performance and prevent injuries by increasing your flexibility, stabilizing your core, improving your balance and strengthening your muscles. Yoga can aid in faster recovery after workouts, improve your range of motion and help you develop stronger mental focus and concentration. In short, yoga can provide many of the physical benefits of other forms of exercise plus added benefits of decreased pain, increased energy levels and stress reduction.
Yoga is considered to be the oldest physical discipline in existence and symbolizes balance in every area of life. The basics of yoga practice center on pranayama (breathing exercises), asanas (postures), and dhyana (meditation). The 5,000 year old practice of yoga has evolved into many different schools so you should be able to find a style that’s right for you:
- Iyengar – This very pure form of yoga is all about precise alignment and deliberate sequencing. It is appropriate for all ages and abilities but that does not mean it’s easy. This type of yoga will teach you the fundamentals and build a superior foundation for other styles. It works every part of your body, giving you great muscle definition but not bulk.
- Hatha – This form encompasses a basic and classical approach to breathing exercises and postures and was originally intended to prep the body for meditation. This is a great practice for calming down and de-stressing and is a good choice for most everyone.
- Kraal – This three part practice encourages you to know, accept and learn from your body resulting in self-empowerment. This is a good type for newbie’s as it teaches basic mechanics and breath work and includes a spiritual aspect.
- Ashtanga – This practice has established strenuous pose sequences linked with breath, that move rapidly and flow from one pose to the next. This vigorous form of yoga is a great cardio and strength workout. This is not a practice for beginners as knowledge of poses is essential in order to get the most benefit.
- Jivamukti – This physical, edge-pushing practice incorporates yoga’s spiritual elements. These authentic all-encompassing classes are themed and include Sanskrit chanting. Jivamukti encourages students to find a state of enlightenment in and out of their practice and is heavily rooted in the traditions of yogic scripture.
- Kundalini – If you a looking for a yoga buzz, this is the type for you. The fluidity of the practice is intended to release the energy in your body while the postures and meditation keep you grounded and focused.
- Bikram – This yoga is practiced in a heated, sauna-like room and includes a series of 26 basic yoga postures that are each performed twice. It’s athletically challenging, builds stamina, increases flexibility, and helps with weight loss.
- Power – This challenging, athletic style of yoga was adapted from the traditional ashtanga and includes isometric movements that spark metabolism and engage all your muscles. This type of yoga will make you sweat while increasing strength and flexibility.
- Restorative – This practice incorporates simple poses that are held for as long as twenty minutes each. This is a great class for everyone as it gives your body an active relaxation session and is really great for injury rehab and de-stressing.
The word yoga means to unite in harmony. The practice of yoga is designed to strengthen the harmony of the mind, body and spirit, thereby promoting health and wellness. The mental and physical health benefits of yoga are many and varied. Physically, yoga aids in pain management, improved blood circulation, enhanced digestion, injury reduction, weight loss and increased flexibility, strength and energy. Mentally, yoga helps to relieve stress, improve mood, boost self confidence, enhance concentration and create a higher awareness of your body and your health.
Tomorrow, The Power Of Yoga: Part II