Fitness for Everyone: Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice dating back many thousands of years, and originating in northern India. The practice of yoga gives its participants physical, mental, and spiritual benefits, and it aims to bring harmony between the mind and the body while encouraging healthy living in the process. Better yet, yoga is a great form of exercise for people at any fitness level. Professional athletes, couch potatoes, kids, and grandmas alike can enjoy the yoga poses with modifications as needed.

Yoga “helps to open joints and strengthen core muscles” according to Tania Tipene, personal trainer, and owner of Nurture Wellness Now, in an article for the Aiken, South Carolina Standard. Indeed, greater flexibility and expanded energy, as well as protecting the body from injury and helping with weight loss are some of yoga’s best benefits.

Another great perk of practicing yoga is that it helps with anxiety and relaxation. Doing yoga poses often helps people deal with stress and unwind mentally, and the relaxation techniques can also help with chronic pain. Patients troubled with arthritis, severe headaches, lower back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome say that yoga practice lessens pain, lowers blood pressure, and allows them to sleep.    Finally, learning to breathe properly is a great benefit of yoga as well. While going through the yoga poses, practitioners learn to listen to their breath as they hold each of the postures. This has the unintended benefit of drawing away all the things running around in their brain at any given time and provides peace.

Beginner Yoga

Finding a beginner’s yoga class is relatively easy. Chances are, your local community recreation center offers them. It’s easy to get started with yoga because the only equipment you typically need is a yoga mat or thick towel. For those with knee problems, chair yoga is a better bet until fitness level improves. Either way, yoga instructors are happy to work with people to show them how to modify poses for their current fitness level. It is important to work with an experienced yoga practitioner initially so that you learn the proper techniques.

Static beginner yoga poses build balance and strength and are held for lengthening periods as fitness improves. These include the Downward Dog, Warrior Pose, Bridge Pose, Tree Pose, and Cobra.

Advanced Yoga Practices

Improved physical strength, balance, and ability lead many yoga aficionados to more advanced and demanding forms of yoga. This ranges from simply tackling more advanced yoga poses, like the firefly pose and lotus pose to adding more equipment, like weights, or silks to practice aerial yoga.  Bikram yoga, also called hot yoga, is a lengthy and vigorous exercise done in a studio heated to 105 degrees. Ashtanga yoga is a series of physically challenging poses great for athletic people who enjoy structure and quiet. Vinyasa yoga is a constantly moving form, often accompanied by music as one pose flows into the next. Yin yoga is perfect for relaxation, and its yogis focus on lengthening muscles, especially those in the hips and spine. By sustaining poses for extended periods, these poses help release stress while encouraging strength-building. Restorative yoga is similar but uses props that help to support the body comfortably while releasing tension.

Learning the basic yoga poses, and the proper yoga techniques is the most important thing about beginning any yoga practice. For that reason, we emphatically suggest taking a course from a certified and experienced yoga professional. They will work with beginners to ensure poses are correct and that injuries are reduced or eliminated.

Yoga is the perfect form of exercise; easy to get started, with immediate benefits, and challenging over the long-term. There are many forms of yoga for advanced practitioners, and most people see them as further challenges along their yoga journey.