I got to thinking that most forms of exercise require a specific type of shoe. You have the soccer cleat, the running shoe, the ski boot, the tennis shoe, the golf cleat, the hiking boot, the high-top, the ice skate and even the wading boot. With yoga, no shoes required. That’s kinda nice.
There are a lot of other nice things about yoga, too, if you can decide which form of it you want to practice as the list is infinite. It has gained a lot of popularity in the last decade and with all the variations and combination here thereof, it is not just for the granola-cruncher, tree-hugging hippie of the 70s. Celebrities do it, moms do it, stressed-out Wall Streeters do it, empty-nesters, seniors, men, women, teens. OK. I have even seen yoga for pets.
BENEFITS OF A REGULAR YOGA PRACTICE
Here are some of the many effects of yoga as a form of exercise. Keep in mind, these benefits are only enjoyed with a regular practice of yoga:
- More flexibility
- Better balance
- Greater strength
- Stress reduction
- Higher confidence
- More energy
- Lower back pain and reduced other aches
- Better sleep
- Weight loss with some forms
- Toned muscles
- New friends
- Sense of serenity
YOGA TERMS: SPEAK THE ANCIENT LANGUAGE
Below are some terms associated with a yoga practice that you will hear thrown around. Yoga uses Sanskrit, the ancient language associated with India and considered the oldest language in the world, is at least 6,000 years old, So, be in the know when your instructor tosses these about in class:
- Asana: This term refers to a yoga posture or pose. In classes, there are series of asanas as you move from one to the other.
- Mudra: Hand gestures are used often in yoga. This term also means the placement of the hands during a pose.
- Namaste: A greeting commonly used at the start and end of class translates to “the divine essence in me recognizes the divine essence in you.”
- Om: This is a common mantra used to center the mind and frequently used to open or close a class.
- Pranayama: This means controlling one’s breath used for the breathing techniques in class.
- Savasana: A resting pose, often called “corpse pose,” is often the final posture in class.
- Vinyasa: Yoga links movement with breath through a series of poses.
- Yogi or Yogini: These are individuals who practice yoga. A yogi refers to a male practitioner while yogini refers to a female practitioner.
A BIT ABOUT THE VARIOUS YOGA STYLES
The range of yoga styles and types of classes is nothing short of confounding. Seriously, just when you think you have a grasp of it, another style or combination of styles that I can’t pronounce comes into the picture and I become befuddled again. So, all I can tell you is, there is something for everyone. Grab a mat, take your shoes off, and chant your way to a more serene and flexible version of you.
Here are some of the styles and a bit about them that seems to be taught in most cities:
- Hatha: This can be a good start for the beginner as it is unhurried. Props like blocks are incorporated into the classes. There is lots of focus on the breathing here.
- Bikram: With temperatures pushing over 100 and high humidity, get ready to sweat. These “hot yoga” classes can be considered major detoxifier and up your flexibility a notch or two.
- Vinyasa: If you like movement and change, this form of yoga is good for you. It is very popular in the U.S.
- Kundalini: Lots of emphases is put on your “core” and these classes can be quiet intense.
- Restorative: This is great at the end of a long day or times of stress when you need to quiet your racing thoughts. This class is focused on relaxation.
- Yin: This is a mostly seated class with deep stretching held for longer periods. It is slow moving and for those looking for relaxation.
- Ivengar: This is a more traditional class with precise movements and great attention to detail. There is a lot of pausing between posing and it is great for those who like to get it right. These classes are also very adaptable as the poses can be modified which is great for injured sporty types.
- Ashtanga: This is known as “power yoga” and if you are looking to lose a few “LBs”, this may help you along. It combines cardio with the poses and there is no rest in between them.
- Jivamukti: These yoga classes are often themed based and there is lots of chanting. It is a more physical practice as well.
The above list is in no way complete. There are endless cross-over methods that combine many forms and styles of yoga, whether that is good or not is one for the gurus to debate.
FIND THE BEST YOGA TEACHER
Yoga is taught at gyms, rec centers, yoga studios, and even church basements. No matter where you go, make sure your teacher has this: 200 hours of certification through the Yoga Alliance. Additional training is beneficial as well as experience teaching. Instructor styles vary so much, as well as approaches and interpretations to the methods. It is best to take advantage of the free trial classes that most places offer to make sure the instructor’s style is a match for you.
Click on over at these sites below to learn all you ever wanted to know and then some about yoga:
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