Yoga: How This Centuries’ Old Practice Should Fit Into Your Fitness Regime
Yoga seems to draw a variety of differing opinions. There are those who swear by it, the dedicated practicing followers, known as the “yogis.” There are some who have merely dabbled in it, perhaps trying out a class at their local studio or gym (but not returning after discovering just how uncoordinated and inflexible they feel). There are also many who have the misconception that yoga is a religion, and want nothing to do with it. And some are just plain intimated by the often awkward-looking positions and poses. No matter which of these categories you may fall into, there is something that we can all learn from yoga, and benefit from by incorporating it into our fitness routines.
Yoga tends to be a much slower paced form of exercise (at least compared to kickboxing, biking, running, aerobics classes, & other cardiovascular based exercises), so much so that some people do not consider it to be exercise at all. However, the benefits of yoga—and simply incorporating a little bit of it into your schedule each week—should not be underestimated. There are mental and physical benefits associated with practicing yoga, as well as mental benefits that turn into physical ones. For instance, one of the most well-known benefits of yoga is its aid in stress reduction & management. As we already know, stress can have terribly debilitating and/or damaging effects on the body. The effects of stress can manifest itself in physical ways, such as hair loss, headaches, insomnia, and aches & pains throughout the body. Yoga is a wonderful way to cope with the stresses of work, school, and everyday life. Additionally, yoga is a great form of strength training, and can be a nice change of pace from heavy weight-lifting, especially for those that may have physical restrictions that prevent them from using free weights & machines. Athletes should also take note that yoga is both a significant tool in the injury prevention process and restorative recovery process. To put it simply, there are a slew of reasons for why we should be practicing yoga, and a small portion of the positive impacts it can have on your health include: lowered blood pressure, increased flexibility, improved performance in athletics & others exercise, lowered blood sugar, increased circulation, boosted immune system, improved posture, bone health, and digestive health.
Exploring the different types of yoga can help you to discover which best suits you, as well as your fitness level and preferences. For those who fear they are too restless to sit still for a yoga class, then Vinyasa is for you. Vinyasa yoga dynamically flows from one pose to the next, at a quicker pace, as opposed to holding a pose for several breaths. The continuous movement will get your heart rate rising as well. For those who are looking for an intense workout, power yoga and Bikram yoga may be up your alley. Power yoga focuses on using the body’s resistance to increase and build strength. It is essentially the “strength training” form of yoga. Bikram yoga, a more advanced level of yoga, is often referred to as “hot yoga.” Whilst practicing Bikram yoga, the temperature in the room is set to approximately 100 degrees (Fahrenheit). The heat helps to loosen muscles, allowing you to move deeper into the poses. Additionally, by increasing sweat production it is thought to aid in eliminating toxins through the body. If you want to get technical, there is actually a difference between hot yoga and Bikram. Bikram yoga classes follow the same 90-minute routine that features 26 specific poses. If you prefer a little more order and predictability, then you’ll probably enjoy the Bikram sequence. If you’re altogether a yoga “newbie” then start with a basic Hatha yoga DVD or class. Hatha yoga is a gentle and basic introduction into breathing technique and poses, while also working on balance, flexibility, & posture. It’s like the foundation of yoga basics that will help you as you eventually branch out & explore the other types of yoga. Finally, for those looking for the more spiritual experience often associated with yoga, Yin yoga may be for you. With a greater emphasis on meditation, Yin yoga takes a more passive approach to poses, holding them for greater lengths of time (up to several minutes). Not only will you find your “zen,” but you’ll target your joints, deep fascia layers, and connective tissues for a remarkably restorative effect. While there are many more types of yoga out there, these are just a few popular forms that can help you get started on your own personal yoga journey!