The Basics of Yoga

The purpose of Yoga is mental, physical and spiritual development meant to create harmony in the mind and body.  The dictionary definition is that yoga is a system of exercises practiced to promote control of the mind and body.  Yoga originated in India and is thought to be 5000 years old.  It is classified into eight limbs.  Mental and physical exercises make up four of the limbs, with meditation comprising the other four limbs.  In yoga, breath is the most important part of health since it is the life source.  Many people think yoga is just stretching.  Yoga is more about creating balance between the mind and body using strength and flexibility.

yoga A typical yoga routine can last anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours.  It consists of poses, which can be done quickly to create heat in the body, or slowly to increase stamina.  The difficulty of the routine can vary from simple breathing exercises, while doing light stretching, to full blown strenuous workouts.  For best results, daily yoga workouts are recommended.  While performing basic positions has an immediate effect on well-being, strength and flexibility, it takes years of daily practice to achieve the deep stretches that many people strive for.

Yoga can be learned in a gym setting by a yoga teacher, or at home from yoga books.  No equipment is needed other than perhaps a mat to sit on.  There should be plenty of flat floor space to stretch out on and enough room above the head to raise the arms.  Yoga is best done on an empty stomach while wearing loose-fitting comfortable clothing.

The health benefits of yoga are numerous.  Yoga aids in sleep and digestion.  It can make people look and feel more youthful.  It increases overall well being and help the mind achieve a state of relaxation.  It makes the body more flexible.  It also strengthens the immune system and decreases chronic pain.  Yoga stimulates and massages the internal organs, which helps keep away disease.  The stretching of muscles and joints encourages optimum blood flow to all of the organs, which in turn has the effect of flushing out toxins.  In terms of weight loss, yoga helps to speed up metabolism and that aids in burning calories.  Yoga also helps to strengthen and tone muscles.

Anyone can do yoga, regardless of age.  Women who are pregnant or nursing can do yoga, as well.  It is important to consult a physician prior to beginning a yoga regime if injuries, spinal problems, or other medical conditions exist.  There are no side effects of doing yoga.  Beginners may experience soreness and fatigue.  It is important for beginners not to stretch too much too fast.

Yoga should not be confused with Pilates.  Yoga focuses on flexibility and toning the entire body.  It has a greater emphasis on mental and spiritual enhancement.  Pilates is more geared towards toning the core and improving posture with less emphasis on flexibility.  Pilates has more of an emphasis on the physical than spiritual.  There are classes that combine the principals of both into one class called “Yogalates”.

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